November 2013

November 2013 Bulletin
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In this issue:
  • CAI's Inaugural Gala sells out, starts A New Conversation about Canadian Arabs
  • Raja Khouri takes on Quebec's Charter of Values
  • Meet the press
  • Meet CAI (Official Intro video released)
  • ROM's Mesopotamia Exhibit upcoming lectures
  • Non-CAI event listing

CAI's Inaugural Gala sells out, starts A New Conversation about Canadian Arabs

"Is there a need for a distinctly Canadian Arab voice? We believe, emphatically, yes."

This how CAI president Raja Khouri began to address a full house of gala attendees, and it's perhaps the thread that brought everyone to the table.
The Canadian Arab Institute's Inaugural Gala, "A New Conversation," which took place on Oct. 30 at the Royal Ontario Museum, has been many months in the making. Much more than a lavish party, it was an introduction, and an invitation. 

Why a new conversation?

"The traditional conversation about us," said Khouri, "has been largely without us. It was premised on headlines of violence and conflict, Hollywood-driven stereotypes of bumbling sheiks and evil terrorists, and ignorance-motivated generalizations of religious oppression and extremism.
"It is hardly an appealing conversation to take part in, let alone be the subject of -- especially because none of these things represent our lives and values as Canadian Arabs. Our community is as diverse as Canada itself, as old as Canada itself, but you wouldn't know it listening to the old conversation."

And so, Khouri invited the diverse audience of ambassadors, wide-ranging politicians, dignitaries, media personalities, business people, artists, and professional Arabs and non-Arabs alike, to help start a new chapter based on mutual respect.

"Let us have a new beginning without the baggage of the past.  Let us have a new conversation." (watch or read speech)

Keynote speaker and former minister and Liberal interim leader Bill Graham, who himself has intimate knowledge of the Middle East, emphasized the importance of Arab voices -- not only for the the sake of a stronger Arab community but rather, a stronger Canada.

"This country is the result of the bringing together strands from around the globe, which have been woven together, to make this Canadian fabric, this Canadian mosaic.  And the stronger each one of these threads, the stronger the fabric as a whole."

While expressing concern over the recent poll which showed 69% of Quebecers have an unfavorable view of Islam, and showing support for Khouri's Globe and Mail piece denouncing Quebec's proposed Charter of Values, Graham reminded the audience that such fears are part of a historical pattern of prejudice against immigrants -- including those like his own Irish wife, who would have been unwelcome here just 100 years ago. (watch speech)

The Hon. Chris Alexander, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, brought warm greetings from Prime Minister Stephen Harper before highlighting that Arab immigrants have exceeded those from China or India, and expressed a commitment to Syrian refugees, aid, and working with the Arab community. "We can do exceptional things together." (watch speech)

MP Olivia Chow and MPP Mitzie Hunter brought greetings from the federal Leader of the Opposition and the Premier of Ontario, respectively, and wished CAI well in pursuit of its goals related to inclusiveness and equality.

Of course, the night wasn't all serious. CBC broadcaster Suhana Meharchand as MC kept the energy high, as did Al-Asala Dabke group; Soprano Allison Angelo, standing in for Miriam Khalil, gave us beautiful arias and the National Anthem (video here); Mohammad Abussa delighted with taqaseen on the oud and George Sawa with qanoun improvisations; an exciting auction got things heated up for art, jewelry and flight tickets; and guests enjoyed a special look at the Mesopotamia Exhibit.

Head to The Toronto Star for a photo gallery of some of the VIPs who enjoyed a private tour of the ROM's Mesopotamia Exhibit. Some of the dignitaries in attendance included The Rt. Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, The Hon. Jean Augustine, Sen. Nancy Ruth, The Hon. Charles Sousa, The Hon. Dr. Eric Hoskins, H.E. Smail Benamara and H.E Dr. Abdulrahman Al Hussaini. Full list of dignitaries found here.

Photo gallery to be posted on our website this month. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter to get notified.

Globe and Mail op-ed

On the same day as our gala, CAI president Raja Khouri penned a powerful column on Quebec's controversial Charter of Values proposal.

"We believe in a secular society, too. But we don’t see secularism as a rigid ideology, imposing shackles of the type from which Quebec liberated itself during the Quiet Revolution. We believe in secularism that is inclusive and respectful of all … 

Meet the press

We've been in the media! Check out our new In the Press page for links to the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Metro, The Hamilton Spectator, and the Welland Tribune.

#CAI Gala: Selection of tweets


CAI launches organizational video 

CAI is proud to present our official organizational video, which was launched at the inaugural gala. Learn about who is involved and why, here. 


Thank you to our gala team

We would like to thank, profusely, our tireless volunteer co-chairs Lisa Assaf, left, and Judith Ramirez for their outstanding efforts in making our Inaugural Gala an immense success and the talk of the town.  Without them it would have been just another gala.  We love you!

Thank you also to the contributions of our Gala  Committee volunteers Mohammad Abusaa, Omar Alghabra, Fares Badr, Tina Edan, Lara Zahabi-Bekdash and Rana Mougharbel.

And, of course a very warm thank you to our esteemed Honorary Gala Chairs for their enthusiastic contributions and participation: Najla Al Zaibak; Sally Armstrong, OC; Jean Augustine, OC; Sylvia Bashevkin; Salah Bachir; Sam Bouji; Rita Davies; Barbara Hall; Nizar Jiwan; Alexa McDonough, OC; Ratna Omidvar, OC; Charles Pachter, OC; and Senator Nancy Ruth, OC.

ROM's Mesopotamia Exhibit lectures

CAI is a proud community partner in promoting the Royal Ontario Museum's Mesopotamia: Inventing Our World exhibit, on now until January 5, 2014. 

Some of the ROM's upcoming Explore Mesopotamia lectures about the exhibit:
  • Gold! Divine Light and Shine in Ancient Mesopotamia: Nov. 7
  • Foresight, Forecasting, and the Future in Ancient Mesopotamia: Nov. 21
  • Regard de l'historien sur la chute de Babylone en 539 av. J.-C. (Lecture in French): Dec. 4
For more information and to book advance tickets, click here.

Non-CAI Events


Festival du Monde Arabe de Montréal:

Événement unique en son genre, le FMA est un événement multidisciplinaire dédié à la rencontre et au dialogue des cultures.
Oct. 25-Nov. 9
For details:

Syria is Suffering Fundraising Dinner

Mississauga, Nov. 9, Payal Banquet Hall
For details:


Amnesty International to speak on Protecting Human Rights in Egypt & the Middle East

Mississauga, Nov. 22, 7250 West Credit Ave.
For details:

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