Hosted by CIGI and the Balsillie School of International Affairs, the Global Youth Forum is a one-day conference for senior high school students. This year’s forum took place on Dec. 14, 2018, and focused on refugees in a global context.
Tareq Hadhad, founder and CEO of Peace by Chocolate, was the keynote speaker at the forum. For more than 20 years, the Hadhad family shipped specialty treats from Syria to countries all over the Middle East, including Yemen, Jordan and Lebanon. Like much of Syria, the Hadhad chocolate factory was destroyed in a bombing that forced the family to leave everything behind. The family spent three years at a refugee camp, then settled in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, in early 2016, as Canada accepted a wave of more than 25,000 Syrians.
In this video, Hadhad tells the story of how he rebuilt his family’s business in their new home and why he feels it’s important to share his story across the globe and with youth in particular. According to Hadhad, today’s youth — given their access to information — have the ability to make changes that will impact the world for generations to come.
My name is Tareq Hadhad and I am the CEO and founder of Peace by Chocolate in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Peace by Chocolate is more of a cause than a business. The whole company really started on the idea of separating peace as a power to change the world and to change the way people think about understanding our differences, about forgiving ourselves, about celebrating our diversity in this country and also to change the whole way that people think about all of the newcomers coming to this country. They are contributors; they are not here to take but they are here to add.
We came to Canada in 2015 on the pilot to bring 25,000 Syrian newcomers to Canada at that time. So, we were the first to land in this country after living our entire life in Damascus, Syria. At the time, Damascus was very well known for the civilization, for the level of culture and acceptance for the others. Now, we are again in an open country that accepts everyone regardless of their religion, of the place that they come from, their background, their ethnicity, of their culture — where everyone is really welcome.
I believe in sharing stories. I believe in the power of sharing stories because it’s your responsibility in the first place to be the ambassador for your culture, for your thoughts, for your opinions, for your achievements even. That’s exactly how I’m feeling right now. I’m feeling that I’m an ambassador for a mission and a big global movement towards understanding more peace which is one of the noblest values on earth.
So today I had the honour to be at the Global Youth Forum at CIGI in Waterloo, speaking to hundreds of senior high-school students about the importance of understanding the whole global scale about all of these immigrants that are trying to find a place for themselves and their family.
The youth in this time are the most privileged generation because the accessibility to information is massive. You can get any information that you need to build on it and create ideas and innovation and be different and remarkable. And some of them, they take it for granted; they say that this is happening because they are living in that age. Some of them, they are now trying to make a real change and take that wave to another level — to the help and support for the entire humanity because they believe that it is absolutely the time where the millennials, they have the ability right now to make a great change that will impact all humanity for generations to come.