Making the trek to Canada from Lebanon
Daad Elsaadi, age 21 made her way to Canada in 1972 from the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon. The love of her life, her next door neighbor Albert had immigrated to Canada in 1968 and sent a letter asking her to marry him. The memory of the emotional farewell with her parents still brings Daad to the verge of tears today.
Daad and Albert were married in Ottawa and started their family having children in 1973, 1974 and twins in 1975. Albert worked as a busboy and took the opportunity to learn how to cook while Daad stayed home and raised the children. At that time, a few of Albert’s family came from Lebanon and Albert helped them to buy a small restaurant in Finch.
In 1979, the west was booming and Albert left and found a job in Calgary right away. Daad and the children followed. Daad spent her time taking a course and cleaning offices. Unexpectedly, 2 months later, Albert’s family in Finch had decided they wanted to relocate and Daad and Albert came back to Ontario to run the restaurant. They worked hard to fix it up and started to generate some clientele.
Daad recalls it not being easy to be the 1st “brown” family in the small town of Finch. Her children were teased and called horrible names. She took several trips to the school to talk to teachers and the principle and finally realized that though she could not change the entire community, she could ensure that her children were well behaved, hard working and respectful of others thus paving the way to increased acceptance.
The restaurant business grew and the Elsaadi family became a part of the Finch being there to help with feeding the community during the ice storm and being kind and respectful to all their customers and neighbors.
Daad recalls a customer coming in on 9/11 and chatting with her and her husband about the horrific event of the day. He stated “we should just kill all the Muslims”. Daad walked in to her room, took out her hijab and for the 1st time, put it on and went back out to the restaurant. The customer looked shocked and asked her why she was wearing it. She said “because I am a Muslim, do you want to kill me?” The man apologized and the conversation became one of how we should not assume or stereotype people in to groups so easily. Daad has not removed the hijab since that day.
Daad believes in giving back. She participates in the Heal and Wheel by walking from Finch to Winchester each year to raise money for the Winchester Hospital. She has been the top individual fund raiser for the past 2 years. Earlier this year, Daad joined forces with the Moose Creek Mall to have a drive for clothing and blankets in aid of thousands of Syrian refugees enduring a very cold winter in camps established in neighboring countries like Lebanon.
Daad is the proud mother of her 4 successful children and an adoring grandmother. During our chat, I saw her look in to the hall and wink and blow a kiss at someone. I asked her if she was flirting with her husband, she responded “41 years later and he is still the love of my life”.
“What would you tell people who are just arriving to Canada?” I asked her. “Bring your goodness” she said, “bring your good manners, good culture and be good to your neighbors. And be good to this country because it will be good to you.”
Daad Elsaadi, age 21 made her way to Canada in 1972 from the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon.