Back in July, we came across a Tweet that read, 'How Canada works: Family owns chocolate factory in Syria. Factory gets bombed. They lose everything. Canadians sponsor them. They move to town of 4,000 people. Dad starts making chocolate in basement. Word spreads. They now make 250,000 pieces of chocolate a month.' We immediately re-tweeted.
The Background Story
The Hadhad family has been making chocolate for more than 20 years. When the war in Syria escalated, they fled and found a new home at a refugee camp in Lebanon and lost their home and chocolate factory, both of which now rest in the rubble amid ongoing unrest.
Upon arriving in Canada, the Hadhad family rebuilt and rebranded with a new chocolate shop in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. They continued making chocolate under a new name. Now, in 2018, Peace by Chocolate is a large contributor to the economy in Antigonish; the result of having doubled their staff and created new jobs in their small community. It's stories like these that make us proud to live in, work in, and create business in Canada.
Interview with Co-Founder Tareq Hadhad
We recently reached out to that same family and spoke with co-founder Tareq Hadhad about what it takes to build a business, the meaning of community, and the values that make Canada 'home' for newcomers and immigrants.
Photo c/o The Globe and Mail
Q. What makes Canada feel like ‘home’?
After moving to Canada, I realized that "home" is where you have a community as a family; an embracing country and caring people that welcome newcomers with open arms and supporting hands. It's not all about the place, but about the values that govern it. It is about the freedom, human rights, and diversity; about the belief in individuals and their skills that they bring with them from all across the world. There are so many countries out there, but there is only one home now for us, which is Canada.
Q. I read a CBC article that said Peace by Chocolate is set to double in size. What opportunities does this offer the Antigonish community?
Peace by Chocolate started as a cause more than a business. The goals and motivations that we started with were all about our community and how to give back to it. Nowadays, Peace by Chocolate is among the major job creators in the town of Antigonish and its county, not only by the number of employees, but by the its global impact. In a time where so many small towns are shrinking and losing jobs, we are focused on benefiting our neighbourhoods from our expansions to bring more attention to - and highlight the importance of - touristic and manufacturing facilities in rural Nova Scotia. PBC has become an international destination with over 20,000 visitors in Antigonish in 2017 and 2018. That spurs economic growth, raises awareness and belief in the successes in small towns, and, hopefully, attracts the workforce to resettle in small towns and support the local economy.
Q. Based on your experience, what does Canada do well when it comes to opening borders for refugees? What can Canada improve on?
Canada believes that opening doors for refugees (while others are closing them) isn't only a humanitarian responsibility, but is the right thing to do. Canada promotes the real values that this country was founded on by supporting those fleeing war and persecution. We don't spread fears and xenophobia, but we offer kindness that is then given back as a logical outcome. Canada doesn't end their welcome by opening doors at borders and airports, but it opens more doors in the daily lives of newcomers. The doors of integration and education, as well as making sure that everyone has a fair opportunity to succeed. In my opinion, Canada has a great vision in resettling newcomers, but there should be a more strategic plan - based on statistics - to introduce newcomers and immigrants to small towns that form the vast majority of the whole country. This is necessary to create an economic and demographic balance.
We were inspired by the Hadhad family's resilience and appreciate all that they're doing to support Canadian manufacturing. We picked up a few chocolate bars to complete our Valentines Day gifts. If you're like supporting Canadian makers, we suggest doing the same.