May 2014

May 2014 Bulletin
In this issue:

CAI's Canadian Arab to Watch

Our Canadian Arab to Watch initiative is going strong, launched in December 2013 to highlight the wealth of leadership, innovation and contributions within our community. For more details about the program, past honourees and for nomination forms, please visit our Canadian Arab to Watch page.

Christopher Achkar: Questions of Law and Order, Simplified

chris.pngIt may have started with an election to homeroom representative in a law class he had to take. Christopher Achkar was 17, and had just moved from Lebanon to Toronto. He won over his peers with a speech that suggested that as a newcomer, he’d strive more to impress them. He didn’t even have to “know a guy” to win. Then again, who knows – Christopher is ambivalent about his stance on fate versus circumstance.  What he knows is that law is his path now. “I was made for it,” he says.

For years Christopher has been curious about legal questions that would arise around him. What is the speed limit where there isn’t one specified? What would you be responsible for if someone fell on your driveway? What legal rights do you have if a neighbour plays loud music past midnight? He was surprised when most people didn’t know the answers to what he thought was basic knowledge.
For Christopher these questions weren't just rhetorical. Instead, he found the answers, shared them with any interested party, and stored them away. In time, he’d amassed a small wealth of information on rights and laws, and decided it was time to share them with others.

So began Beyond Reasonable Doubt Community, a nonprofit Christopher co-founded in 2012 with a close friend. The website continues his work of seeking answers to legal matters, and disseminating them for the public at large. It distills complicated legal issues and language into comprehensible explanations for lay people, through its website and other social media channels. Christopher stresses that the organization does not give legal advice and doesn’t replace the need for a lawyer. But it does attempt to answer posed questions and make people more aware of day-to-day legal aspects of their interactions.
Topics of discussion are often inspired by the news, such as marriage equality, gun registry, abortion, prostitution law, employment and labour law, and voting laws, among others.
“It was a mixture of my passion to make law understandable, helping others when I can, and a realization that affordable legal advice isn’t within reach to a great number of Canadians.”
Christopher is in his final year of study at The University of Birmingham in England and will be graduating this month. His hope is to return to Toronto, practice employment, labour and/or business law, and to continue to expand Beyond Reasonable Doubt, including into Lebanon.
He believes his experience in Lebanon, and then as an immigrant, directed his path. Growing up in a culture where “connections” are often more valuable than merit, he says not all opportunities were afforded to him. Coming to Canada, he found a considerable amount of freedom and opportunity. “Nobody asks you who you know for you to be able to do something that makes a difference.”
With this attitude and privilege, he wants to “change everything.”
“I would like to use what I have and what I gain to contribute in every way possible,” both in Canada and Lebanon.
He mentions access to justice as the “most important issue,” which also ties into others like homelessness and unemployment.
“Everything needs change, everything needs to be examined.… There’s room for improvement everywhere.”

CAIleaf2014 Summer Internships at CAI


The Canadian Arab Institute is pleased to announce internship opportunities in Toronto for university students or recent graduates with interest in public policy, community development and Canadian Arab affairs. The program is part of the Canadian Arab Institute’s commitment to youth leadership engagement and professional development.

CAI offers a hands-on experience in activities that include research, event management, community outreach, and communications, among others. Applicants must either be Canadian citizens or permanent residents.  Visit the 2014 Summer Internship program page to learn more about the opportunities available HERE

 DiverseCity onBoard Pleases


While the highly diverse face of the city continues to be under-represented in many of Toronto's public and non-profit agencies, a growing number of organizations have come to appreciate the value of diversity at the decision making level. They have come to see it as an asset that allows them to better provide solutions to their constituencies.  These efforts of diversification have been getting a big boost from DiverseCity onBoard, an award winning initiative of the Maytree Foundation, which connects qualified candidates from diverse communities to the governance bodies of nonprofit and public sector organizations in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).  The program’s mandate is to work with public institutions and voluntary organizations to change the face of the region’s leadership by promoting board recruitment and appointment processes that reflect the GTA’s diverse population.

On April 29th, CAI and the Maytree Foundation collaborated on bringing a greater awareness of opportunities to members of the Canadian Arab community.  The lunch-and-learn session, presented by Mona ElSayeh, DiverseCity onboard GTA Manager, illustrated how poorly the Arab community compares to other visible minority groups in terms of civic engagement. The event focused on framing the various opportunities available to become more involved in communal governance by serving on organizational, municipal, and provincial boards.

DiverseCity onBoard recruits, pre-screens, and trains qualified candidates from visible minority and under-represented immigrant communities. Current opportunities exist in the healthcare, theatre, community services, environment, senior services, among other fields.  The highly successful workshop was both educational and engaging.  Participants were given the opportunity to explore possibilities for civic engagement that align with their particular interests, as well as room to network and connect with their peers.

CAI hopes to arrange for similar workshops with the Maytree foundation later in the year.

For more information, visit: or contact Mona ElSayeh:


From First-Hand Experience to Local Policy

Part of a series on Canadian Arabs running in the Ontario municipal elections in October 2014.

Noukha Dakroub: Investing in children for a better future

Nokha_Dakroub_-_Profile_Picture.jpg“What would you like to be when you grow up” is a global question that is often nonchalantly thrown at both children and young adults, without paying much attention to the state of confusion it creates. Nokha Dakroub believes the answer to this question is often inspired by grades, rather than skills, for schoolchildren in both middle and high school. Dakroub, running as a trustee for the Public School Board in Wards 9 & 10 in Mississauga, has a few ideas that would hopefully change this paradigm.
While Wards 9 and 10 are located in the northwest section of Mississauga, Nokha’s hometown is located in Lebanon, from which she moved to Canada at the age of 14. She finished high school in Ontario and completed a Masters degree in social work at York University. She started to work for various not-for-profit organizations, counselling women facing abuse and helping newcomers settle in Canada. Today, Nokha works as a settlement worker in schools in Wards 9 & 10.
Nokha sees social work as both a personal and political calling. As a settlement worker, Nokha spent considerable time learning about the system, both the schoolchildren’s needs, and their parents’ needs. She understands the problems newcomers face upon arrival in Canada, knows how immigration policies affect them, and can help solve many of the issues their children face in schools. The next step for Nokha was to politicize her work. Nokha sees policy-making as a vehicle, as a tool to effect change and a way to contribute to schools. By running as a trustee, she hopes to do exactly that.
Public School Trustees form the direct link between communities and school boards, where they work together to govern and establish policies, set budgets, advocate for the needs of their communities, and work with all levels of government to help ensure student success. Besides providing a safe and healthy environment, Nokha aims to focus on issues of inclusion and guidance.
For example, instead of letting schoolchildren wait until grade 11 to start thinking about their future careers, Nokha would like to ensure that they are aware of the new economy and start building the required skills to be competitive as early as elementary and middle school.
Nokha also plans to promote the importance of marketable skills as opposed to high grades as the only indication of a student’s future career choice. In other words, she will work towards providing schoolchildren with better guidance for locating their skills and matching them with a future career.

Nokha believes the only way to ensure the success of a society is through investment in its children. October 27th will decide her role in shaping that investment.

If you are interested in volunteering or getting involved in Noukha's campagin, please visit her website or contact her at 

This story is provided for informational purposes only and does not represent an endorsement or any political affiliation by CAI. We invite you to bring to our attention any Canadian Arab candidates running in the Ontario municipal elections. Email 


CAI Welcomes its First Research Fellow

ghinaThe Canadian Arab Institute (CAI) is pleased to announce the addition of its newest member, research fellow Ghina Al - Dajani.  "We are excited to welcome Ghina as our first research fellow, and hope that with this start, we will continue to build our research unit to strengthen CAI’s standing as a policy-oriented research center."  Raja Khouri, President, Canadian Arab Institute

Ghina Al – Dajani recently graduated with a Master of Arts degree in Communication and Culture, specializing in politics and policy.  Her Master’s thesis focused on the pluralism of national identity in the Canadian-Palestinian community and, specifically, the ways in which it is affected by Canadian national culture and public policy. After completing her degree, Ghina worked with the Robarts Research Centre for Canadian Studies on several socio-political research projects, and later joined the Ontario Public Service as a Programs and Policy Assistant before joining CAI in April 2014.

calendar.jpgHold the date ...

September 27, 2014: CAI 2nd Professional Development Conference for Canadian Arab Youth, Ryerson, Toronto  

Providing a forum for discussion of challenges facing Canadian Arab youth in the professional marketplace and the development of professional skills of Canadian Arab youth through mentoring by successful Canadian Arabs.  Stay tuned for more details.

December 4, 2014: CAI's Gala Concert, Sultans and Divas, Koerner Hall, Toronto  

CAI's first-ever cultural event featuring a tapestry of Canadian Arab artists to showcase their talents and vibrant contributions to this country.  Stay tuned for more details.

For more information on upcoming visit the CAI events page

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