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Learning from Canada’s refugee policy: Diversity is good for business

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Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen. (Photo: Government of Canada)Photo: Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen. (Photo: Government of Canada)

The Canadian government’s ability to integrate immigrants was the result of the generosity and welcoming spirit of Canadian people. Ahmed Hussen knows this all too well. He now heads the very department that welcomed him and integrated him into Canada as a refugee from war-torn Somalia 24 years ago. By PETER FABRICIUS.

Ahmed Hussen arrived in Canada in 1993 as a 16-year-old refugee from war-torn Somalia and was accepted as a citizen. He now finds himself able to extend the favour in a big way for other refugees, as Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.

It wasn’t easy arriving in Canada in an unusually cold winter without his parents, who had chosen not to emigrate to Canada, though two of his brothers had, he said in an interview. “I had never seen snow before,” he recalls.

“After 10 years I was working for a state premier and a bit more than 10 years later as an MP. I now head the very department that welcomed me and integrated me,” he had earlier said to applause at the Johannesburg law firm where he spoke on Tuesday.

“I am no exception. I can give you many examples of refugees who arrived with virtually nothing who now have contributed much to Canada.”

He cited the example of Tareq Hadhad and his father Issam who fled the Syrian war in 2012, leaving behind their flourishing chocolate-making business. After three years in a refugee camp in Lebanon, they settled in Antigonish, Novia Scotia, Canada, where they were greeted by what Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described to foreign leaders as “a bunch of big-hearted Canadians”.