TORONTO – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in Canada launched a new partnership with Mohamad Fakih, the President and CEO of Paramount Fine Foods, to support the Agency’s work in support of refugees globally and in Canada.
Mr. Fakih, who is also the Founder of the Fakih Foundation, has been a leader in promoting the economic and social integration of refugees in the Toronto area, and is well known for his charitable initiatives. From his engagement to welcome and support Syrian refugees, to fundraisers and community events in aid of the most vulnerable in society, Mr. Fakih has for years demonstrated vision and commitment to building a Canada that is strengthened by diversity as a global leader on refugee issues.
UNHCR is proud to partner with Mr. Fakih, who has championed the welcoming of refugees into the workforce of his rapidly growing restaurant chain, Paramount Fine Foods. With over 60 locations worldwide serving halal Middle Eastern cuisine, Mr. Fakih has opened his doors to the skills and drive that many refugees bring on arrival in Canada, creating 150 jobs for refugees in 2017 alone.
“I have seen in Lebanon myself both the terribly difficult conditions for Syrian refugees there, but also their tremendous potential as skilled workers and drivers of economic growth. I wanted to do something to help fund counselling and employment search initiatives, but also to show other companies what the private sector can do to integrate refugees into the local economy. The private sector has a huge role to play in fostering better prospects for refugees in Canada – and it makes good business sense, too,” said Mr. Fakih. “My hope is that the Canadian example can be replicated elsewhere, as the world struggles to find dignified solutions to the plight of millions of refugees.”
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, delivers life-saving interventions to protect and assist over 24 million refugees, as well as more than 40 million forcibly displaced within their own countries. In Canada, UNHCR has also been working to boost refugee employment as part of a global effort to expand durable solutions for refugees. Many refugees bring the same skills and experience that economic immigrants have on arrival in Canada. But they often lack the initial job search support and access to potential employers, holding them back from taking up paid employment as quickly as they are able.
“There is fantastic potential here in Canada to harness the untapped economic potential of refugees,” said Jean-Nicolas Beuze, the Representative in Canada for UNHCR. “Canadians know about welcoming refugees. But bringing refugees into the economy as skilled employees and helping them to start small businesses helps to boost economic growth and also fosters long-term social and cultural integration. It is a win-win relationship for refugees, employers and the community, and this is something that Mohamad Fakih knows first-hand. We are excited to partner with him on this important agenda and have him lend his voice to UNHCR Canada.”
During the launch at Toronto’s Livelihood Café, Mr. Fakih and Mr. Beuze met with refugees working at the Café and in other local businesses. The refugees, new participants in Canada’s economic and social life, shared their stories of integrating into the Toronto community. They were joined by the Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and MP for York South-Weston, who welcomed the new partnership: “Today, in my home town of Toronto, a pillar of our community here – Mohamad Fakih – and the UN Refugee Agency are joining forces to think big about the contributions refugees can and do make to Canada’s economy and society. Bringing refugees into our economic life as quickly as possible is important for them, for their faster and better integration. But it is even more important for us, for Canadians. It is about who we are as a people, as a country that believes in helping the most vulnerable, such as refugee women and girls, and in diversity as a key to unlocking economic and social progress and growth.”
See the video of our launch event:
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