Tareq Hadhad, 26, is general manager of Peace by Chocolate in Antigonish, N.S. He was cited as a Syrian refugee success by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the United Nations Leaders’ Summit on Refugees in 2016.
My father’s chocolate factory in Damascus was bombed in 2012. We left in 2013, staying in a refugee camp in Lebanon [for] almost three years. I arrived in Canada [in] December, 2015, my siblings and parents [came in] January, 2016, now there are nine family members here. I am single. Being called a new Canadian at the airport was huge. You can travel anywhere. You can find a place for yourself. The regular immigrant has an option to go back to their homeland – for our family, who lost everything, we didn’t have that option. You can sit and complain about the weather or build a life.
We were asked to a community potluck. We felt chocolate is our ambassador. My father prepared chocolates in our home. Everything he made was gone in 10 minutes. After we came back, he had tears in his eyes, that was a huge moment for him. We started selling in the local market, that first day in Antigonish, people waited before it opened. I counted 200 people, to buy chocolate. People loved it before they even tasted it! They trusted us as newcomers who brought something they wanted to support.
We didn’t come to take anyone’s job – we’re here to create jobs. We also wanted to tell Canadians about Syrians, how hard they work for their goals. One of my professors said, people buy what you do and why: People care what is behind products. I felt, ‘Why would you care if we called it “Tareq’s Chocolate.”‘ We would make ours remarkable, unique – so people would know about the business from the name, the story. With friends, we came up with Syria Chocolate for Peace, a long name, then Peace by Chocolate, because peace, in any language, is our noblest value. We realized the importance of peace since leaving Syria because of the violence. Peace is the thing we cannot live without; we cannot build businesses without peace. We can’t go to school without peace. We cannot raise families without peace.