first I’m Canadian .. and I’m a Christian Palestinian Arab

Shawky Fahel is a prominent business owner
and President of the K-W Arab Canadian Friendship Association

Multiculturalism and the Referendum
October / November 1992

When I was asked whether I would consider being the chair of the “communities” section of the “Yes” committee, I did not hesitate. I am a business person who depends on his own labour to earn the income to support his family. I knew I would pay from my own pocket for my willingness to serve as section chair. Occasionally, as I thought of the hours lost to my business, I asked myself why I accepted so quickly. I really had no choice. My own background has taught me the importance of national compromise and understanding.

I am an Arab born in Israel. I am Christian while most of those around me in my childhood years were Muslim or Jewish. I have left my homeland which has witnessed four wars within my lifetime, and I came to Canada, a land that had not known wars for over 150 years. I married a Canadian and, while respecting my heritage, I am encouraging my children to express their loyalty to Canada, the land that has given me and so many newcomers so much. I am, first of all, a Canadian.

Differences between people and faiths can either be resolved peacefully or with guns. I know what differences can do to create hatred and distrust; my birthplace overflows with such emotions – and with violence. I came to Canada because of its tradition of tolerance of differences and peaceful resolution of disputes. It pains me greatly that region is now set against
region, group against group, and language against language.

I was overjoyed when I learned that ten provincial premiers, the three major party leaders, aboriginal leaders, and the premiers of the two territories had reached an agreement. It signaled a remarkable spirit of compromise. Everyone gave up something to forge this agreement, and that willingness to accept other people’s point of view is rare in this world today.

I had expected that this compromise would receive overwhelming approval, but then prejudices and personal anger got in the way. Brian Mulroney became the issue for many. I am not a supporter of Mulroney – but this time he is not the issue. Neither is Pierre Trudeau, who makes some good points, but he offers no alternatives.

We cannot go back to where we were before. The history not only of the Middle East, but also of Canada reveals how dangerous it is when compromises fail. The road does not lead back to a peaceful past but to a bitter future.

As one who chose Canada because Canadians were tolerant of each other, willing to compromise for the good of the nation, and able to distinguish between what mattered and what was trivial, I am saddened to think this compromise might be rejected. We have been negotiating without agreement for over twenty years. Does anyone seriously believe we can simply go back to the negotiating table as if nothing happened ?

And finally, Canadians will demonstrate their patriotism by the democratic act of voting on October 26,1992 and not by which way they vote. The country that assures human rights through the attitudes of its people as well as a Charter of Rights and Freedoms; the country that is best peacekeeper to many parts of the world; the country that provides for the health and welfare of its citizens; the country that shares its wealth through the equalization and transfer payments with its people; the country which is the envy of other parts of the world and which was recently named by the U.N. as the best place in the world to live in. For all these reasons and the fact that I believe that the Charlottetown agreement is a reasonable compromise to resolve our constitutional difficulties, on October 26th, I will cast a “YES” vote.

How Important is Multiculturalism in Our Canada
June / July 1992

With the exception of Native Canadians, we are all immigrants in one sense or another. Canada today is a multi-cultural, multi-racial and multi-lingual society. Difference gives us strength; Diversity is a fundamental principle in nature. The city of Toronto is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, where people from many different cultural backgrounds live in relative harmony.

All immigrants have chosen to come to Canada with the same common interest: to seek a better life. We are all trying to uphold and better the multicultural mosaic that we live in. Multiculturalism in Canada means we all have differences but we also respect each other’s differences. This is what being a Canadian is !

People ask me, is there racism in Canada? I answer, yes, there is, like in any other country. When they find out what we, as Canadians, can offer, they all want to come here.

Some politicians would have us think that the 27 million dollars that the Federal Government is spending on multiculturalism is too much. I believe the institutionalization of the multicultural debate has been used only as a vehicle to buy votes. We, as new Canadians don’t need the government’s financial help, because money cannot buy tolerance or understanding.

Looking at our diversity we should stop and ask ourselves: Is there a common stand and are there any common beliefs that define us as Canadians? Until we as Canadians have defined our common beliefs and common traditions, we are in danger of atomizing into all of our respective self interests. We should have common traditions, common interests, common influences, common goals, and common opportunities. All these have to be articulated and passed to our children.

Tolerance alone is not enough to build a strong multicultural society. To keep Canada united we have to move beyond the co-existence model. Each and every one of us has to take the initiative within ourselves. We have to discard the idea that some magician from Ottawa will do it for us. We have to stop taking things for granted and we have to overcome our complacent attitude. We have to educate our youth and teach them how to respect each other regardless of colour, creed or relgion. We have to instill the thought in every Canadian that Canada is a place where we care for each other quite a lot.

Finally, for Canada’s 125th anniversary, I challenge all Canadians to take the risk and display the courage that is needed to work hard towards keeping the great Canadian Dream alive. We have to make this culturally diverse country work as a model for the rest of the world.

Immigrants bring strength to this country, so let us all work hard together and benefit from each other to strengthen our country to make us more competitive in the Global Economic Market.

Happy 125 th Birthday CANADA !  with compassion and understanding we can keep it together.

first . . . I’m Canadian
and . . . I’m a Christian . . . Palestinian . . . Arab

born in Palestine
Volume 3 #4 1994

I came to Canada almost 26 years ago, I studied Political Science, Sociology and Near Eastern Studies at Waterloo Lutheran University (now Wilfrid Laurier University) and obtained my diploma in 1972.  I started my own business in 1979 as a painter, and gradually worked up to where I am today … with a Custom Woodworking and a Contracting firm.

As an immigrant myself, I know what immigrants go through.  We come in search of a better life, but it takes a lot of very hard work and dedication.  Adjustment often takes a while, so I’ve made it a point to help as many people as I can, by being a friend, by introducing them to different things, by helping with the language … and in any way possible, because I know how hard it is … I was there myself 26 years ago!

What am I going to tell you about my family?
I’m married to Kathie, and have two children, my son Shaddie George is 9 years old, my daughter Amanda Marie is 7 years old, and they were both born on the same day … Remembrance Day … November 11th …two years apart ! We live in Waterloo, and enjoy Middle Eastern food … you know, the usual, the Kibbeh, Tabbouleh and all the rest …

my vision?
I probably share the same visions as any father … to see my children grow up to be successful, and to be involved and to achieve their own goals;  and I hope that they would follow in their father’s footsteps, isn’t this every father’s dream?  But then they also say : “you shall reap what you have planted”, our children are our products, and it is up to us to invest and instill values in them.

How much is Canadian and how much is Middle Eastern in them . . ?
I think that’s a very good question .. my wife is Canadian and myself being a Palestinian, it is always a challenge, we even have sayings about this in the Middle East … you know … but let me tell you, I look at it this way … Plato tried his Utopia, maybe he didn’t succeed, but you try to open a Utopian relationship to its utmost … I got the best of both worlds … naturally there are sacrifices to be made, there needs to be devotions and dedications on both sides, because it isn’t a one way street.  My children are Canadian, they are born here, on the other hand, they are also exposed to a lot of my culture, they do understand Arabic, they visit with their teta (grandma), their aunts, uncles and cousins, they eat the food … but as you know, kids are very fragile, you cannot force anything upon them … I do hope, however, that my kids will grow up respecting my culture and understanding my background and my family and where I came from.  It is hard sometimes … you might appreciate what I’m saying after watching the movie I produced in 1989 that I was tell you about called “Foreign Nights“; it deals with new immigrants and the cultural clash between the generations.  We all experience this, whether we are Arabs, Greeks, Spaniards, Italians, or … usually the first generation have the hardest time, by the second generation we become totally Canadianized.  There is a trend right that there is a late awakening, hey, you know I’m a ... but it is very difficult for a child who is born here to a parent of a different culture to really keep in the footsteps one hundred percent.

But would I want to impose that on them ?
No, though I would like to see every child of an immigrant family be able to speak the language of their parents, and be acquainted with the cultural background, it is the parents’ duty to teach them but not impose it on them … otherwise they’ll rebel, so we need to be fair to the children too!
I should tell you, I have a problem with any immigrant who tries to think of  himself first as (whatever) and not as a Canadian.  I think of myself first as a Canadian because when I wake up in the morning, I am in Kitchener-Waterloo, my kids are born here, go to school here … so I can’t impose my ways, besides neither my culture nor any other is perfect !  What I can do, and I have done, by marrying a Canadian, is try to take the best out of both, and that’s the most challenging part in my married life !

I personally believe that the government failed horrendously in implementing the multicultural / immigration policies in the past 30 years. They are finally waking up to the reality that international trade would be enhanced and benefit considerably by involving a Canadian of this or that background who will find it easier to deal with that other culture because he / she understands the mentality. So we have to stop thinking locally and start acting globally. Learning another language is helpful, anything over two languages is great !  People here worry about bilingualism and what have you …  well … when I was growing up I was taking three languages:  English, Arabic and Hebrew.  By speaking those languages in my recent travels to explore trade opportunities, I was also telling them: I understand your mentality, I understand how you deal … I know where you’re coming from … and that tells them we can co-operate better !

What are my plans for the immediate future ?
I’m just getting settled in my new business location so we are flexing our muscles to take on the twin cities, we’re ready to move, go out and get that work, we’re looking at more international trade, that’s something I’ve been working on for the past four years through my trips overseas and we’re close to signing some contracts for production and manufacturing and shipments in hotel and motel furniture, prefab kitchens and so on. I plan to be in Casa Blanca, Marakesh (Morocco) for the World Economic Forum soon.

How many people do I employ .. ?
We have started calling people back, we are currently at 19 – of many different backgrounds – and we are hoping to double or triple our numbers within the next six months .. we are very optimistic in our projections, and I believe that the economy is starting to turn, and by next year things will be a lot better. There is a change out there, if you compare to the economy of two years ago, the ‘doom and gloom days’, there is a much more positive outlook right now. Although, unfortunately, things don’t look good in Quebec, I think we will ride the storm like we have in the past.

What philosophy do I live by .. ?
quite a simple one really … it takes a lot of human feelings to be a human, it takes involvement in one’s community, in doing things .. I do what I believe in and believe in what I do, one has to fight for one’s beliefs and stick to those beliefs. It’s hard sometimes, but we have to do what we have to do .. and above all, it takes being a friend, everyday .. it’s like the good old saying .. being a good Samaritan .. “be good unto others and the Lord will be good onto you”.

In closing I want to say that most of the immigrants, given the chance, turn out to be assets to this country .. and Gehan .. you are a prime example, you are doing excellent work .. and don’t edit this part !.. I believe that Cross Cultures is serving a need in society and I wish you increasing success with it, I whole heartedly support you !

I wish that all members of the community would respect and appreciate each other’s cultures, because first and above all, we are all Canadians, and we need to work with each other and understand each other.

Well, here it is, I didn’t edit it .. and I thank you Shawky for a glimpse into your life, and we appreciate everyone’s support as we continue to work even harder at achieving our goal of promoting racial harmony.

and here is a quick overview of Shawky (Joe)’s involvements:

* Owner of Woodworking (Cabinet) Shop (1988-present)
* Owner of J.G. Contracting Ltd (1979-present)
* Ongoing work with members of Canada’s Department of External Affairs and International Trade. (1990-present)
* Member of Business Delegation to Tel Aviv to explore import/export opportunities with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (1991)
* Business Delegate with Premier Bob Rae’s Ontario negotiations regarding importing/exporting and exploring business opportunities in Israel, The West Bank and Jordan (1993)

* Northstar Entertainment Inc- Mahaba Films Inc., Canadian Productions (1989)
* Shehrazad Non-Profit Housing Inc,
Phase I and II. Chair and Sponsor (1983-present)
* K-W Arab Canadian Friendship Association. President (1980-present)
* Charlottetown Accord Yes Committee Chair of Multicultural Groups (1992)

– Kitchener Federal Liberal Association Executive (10 years),
elected V.P. Feb.3,1994
– Chair Fundraising for the Kitchener Provincial & Federal Liberal Association (8 years)
– Delegate for all Federal & Provincial Liberal Conventions across the country (6 years)
– Rotarian Kitchener Club (9 years)
– Executive Board of Directors, Rotary Club (1994-95)
– Public Relations Chair & Fundraising Co-Chair, Rotary Club
– Vocational Award Co-Chair – 5 Rotary Clubs
– Kitchener Concordia Club member
– Executive member, Canadian Arab Federation
– Executive member, Canadian Arab Anti-Discrimination Association
– St. George Antioch Church-Toronto
– Kitchener Chamber of Commerce member
– Campaign Waterloo (University of Waterloo) Fundraising committee
– Executive member, C.I.I.A.- University of Waterloo chapter – (6 years)
– Soccer Coach – ATOM groups (5 years)
– Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association
– Canadian Home Builders Association
– Habitat for Humanity Sponsor

Congratulations Shawky Joe Fahel :

* Special Recognition Award for Community Leadership, Outstanding Accomplishments, and Support of the Canadian Arab Federation
* Outstanding Volunteer Award for 1992, Federal Liberal Party
* Paul Harris Fellow Award (1994), Rotary International

The Paul Harris Fellowship is the greatest honour for a Rotarian, it is awarded to very active Rotarians who excel through their involvement. In Shawky’s case “it was a double honour because Hugh Archer – last year’s president of Rotary International – presented the award to me and to the Kitchener Rotary Club to which I belong”.

I have been a member of the Rotary Club for the past nine years. It is a worldwide, non-governmental organization that does tremendous work in the community. All Rotary Clubs work and interact together Each has different avenues of service while specializing in fundraising for specific projects. The first avenue is Club service- by which each member has to sit on different committees; Educational service-support for schools, scouts and other organizations; Community service-cultural, and environmental projects to meet specific needs; including Rotary Youth Leadership program of seminars, conferences and leadership camps to recognize and develop good citizenship; and International services- Youth Exchange program that annually sends young people abroad for a school year and brings young people from other countries to Canada to build international goodwill and promote “World Understanding and Peace” also the Immunization projects in developing countries; World community service … the list goes on.

Rotary was born on February 25th, 1905 in Chicago, Illinois. On that day its founder, Paul P. Harris, an attorney, met with three friends over lunch – Silvester Schiele, a coal dealer; Gustavas E. Loehr, mining engineer; and Hiram E. Shorey, a merchant tailor. Originally Paul’s idea was to promote fellowship among business acquaintances. They would meet every week at someone’s business and soon there developed the higher purpose of service to others .. the final result is the Rotary motto:

“Service Above Self”

what we call the four-way test: is it fair to all concerned, is it the truth, will it be beneficial to all concerned, will it build goodwill and better friendships.

The main goal for all the local area Rotary clubs’ over the last few years has been to fundraise towards the new 50,000 square foot Rotary Children’s Centre currently being built on Davenport road and should be ready to move in at the end of next year. It’s a dream that is coming true .. that all Rotarians and the community should feel very proud of.  The fundraising committee chairs have met their goals, and the government has also helped; The centre will be an excellent facility, that will enable us to serve many disabled children who have been on a waiting list. We are presently proud to be able to provide care by the best people in the profession and our wonderful volunteers, to 1200 children, who come to the centre by recommendation from Doctors and undergo assessment. Once a year we hold a fishing trip and a Christmas party for the children.

Rotary has one million, one hundred and twenty five thousand members in 183 countries, there are 500 districts, a governor general to each district. I belong to district 7080, we have 44 clubs in our district, and the Kitchener club is one of the largest and oldest clubs in the area, we are actually celebrating 75 years.

Rotary International’s main goal is to eradicate polio plus from the world. The convention held in Taipei this past June in China, and in one day Rotarians helped immunize one hundred million Chinese kids. I had the honour of attending Rotary International Convention two years ago in Melbourne, Australia, and believe me, nothing beats seeing 25 or 30 thousand Rotarians meet and socialize together .. it’s like you have known them all your life. I say to every Rotarian: you have not seen what Rotary is all about until you have attended a Rotary International convention.

Peace and Stability
Volume 5 #1 1996

Shawky Fahel travels extensively to the Middle East. He is an advocate of peace and of bringing closer together in Canada both Arabs and the Jewish community.

On October 26th 1995 I attended the World Economic Summit on North Africa and the Middle East. The summit was sponsored by the World Economic Council out of Davos, Switzerland. This summit which took place in Amman, Jordan, was very important for the region because political and emotional goodwill were translated into an agenda.

One of the workshops at that multi-dimensional event was called “Is The Middle East Open For Business ?” The international business community identified real business opportunities and not just dreams.  The Regional Development Bank that was inaugurated at the Amman summit will be of critical importance in providing some money and a lot of expertise in weighing the risk and returns of developing projects.

Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan best summarized the situation at a dinner speech by saying “The world, and this region, are changing .. either join it or be left out; and enough countries and people want to join in to make it happen”.

The Middle East governments realize they have a huge task facing them: that of liberalizing and deregulating all the economics of the region and re-legislating existing laws in order to attract foreign investments from across the globe; and the promotion and encouragement of trade between the countries of the region as we do amongst the provinces of our country.

Canadians should see the opportunities available to them as the whole of the Middle Eastern region truly opens up for business. Just think of all the projects needed to rebuild the infrastructure that is necessary to accelerate the growth. Throughout my travels in the past six years to Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, the West Bank and Yafa, one fact was very evident .. Canadian businesses and business people were and still are very complacent. We are not aggressive enough. Businesses across the country need to become more involved in the pursuit of contracts. We are leaders in the fields of Water Treatment and Sewage Treatment plants, we are masters in Infrastructure building. Our technology is second to none. Our government’s approach to International Trade in the past two years has been very encouraging. Our economy is export driven (with the signing of a one billion dollar contract we create 1100 Canadian jobs!).

In addition to all the above, Canada is the most respected by all the countries of the Middle East because we had played a major role over the past 40 years as a peace keeping and neutral country in the region – ever since the creation of the U.N. Peace Keeping Forces by the late Lester B. Pearson in 1956.

I therefore urge Canadian companies and businesses to get involved as the whole Middle Eastern region embarks on an economic building boom.

The Peace Process that was signed on September 13th, 1993 on the White House lawn is irreversible. The forces of evil that tried to upstage the historic event with the assassination of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on November 4th, 1995 and the recent wave of bombings in Israel will not succeed to derail the peace process.

Peace shall prevail; Through our involvement and the rest of the world’s involvement, we can make it happen. Economic Stability and Peace go hand in hand together. We can help stabilize that region and also create Canadian jobs at home !