January 2014

January 2014 Bulletin
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Message from the president: If at first you succeed, try harder

Raja G. KhouriA year ago, in the first letter from the president, I reflected on a productive foundational year and envisaged a 2013 in which the Canadian Arab Institute would "materialize and take shape." And that, with the support of many wonderful individuals, it did. 

From acquiring office space to hiring staff, establishing communication tools to attaining charitable registration, appointing a distinguished advisory board and selecting illustrious honorary gala chairs, each structural step was carefully planned and executed to build a sound and sustainable organization — one with high professional standards and even higher aspirations.

On the activities front, our two biggest events of the year were the hugely popular Professional Development Conference for Canadian Arab Youth, and our sold-out inaugural gala, A New Conversation, which took place at the Royal Ontario Museum alongside the highly-acclaimed Mesopotamia Exhibit (which CAI was a Community Partner in promoting).  

The first-of-a-kind professional development conference drew more than 40 established Canadian Arab professionals and over 200 participants, providing amazing opportunities for networking, role-modelling and leadership development. 

The gala brought together a diverse audience of ambassadors, politicians, dignitaries, media personalities, business people, artists, and professional Arabs and non-Arabs alike.  Much more than a lavish party supported by many corporate sponsors, it was an introduction to a new face of Canadian Arabs, and an invitation to a "new conversation"  about the community's place in the country.  We were indeed proud of the caliber of individuals and institutions who participated, and grateful for their support and patronage. 

It was a year in which we also produced several research reports and a policy brief, published a commentary in the Globe and Mail, and hosted four young summer interns.  And we ended the year launching our Canadian Arabs to Watch initiative, which highlights and celebrates Canadian Arabs who are making their mark, contributing in a special way to our society.  (Do you have someone nominate?)

What to expect in 2014?  That we will not rest on our laurels.  There's much on the agenda: a multi-year research project, policy papers, conferences, a lecture series, a youth development program, a rewards and recognition program, and a cultural event that will highlight Canadian Arab artistic talent.  We will be trying even harder than we did in 2013.

Do you want to help?  Get involved!  You can serve on one of our committees, help plan and organize events, or get involved in our research work.  You can donate or help us fundraise!  What's your pleasure?

We are in the business of people: educating, recruiting, cultivating, advancing, developing.  I've been honoured to serve with the many who contributed to our successful efforts in 2013.  I can't wait to meet and work with many more who will do so in 2014.  Be one of them!

Wishing everyone a healthy and successful year,

Raja G. Khouri
President, The Canadian Arab Institute

CAI's Canadian Arab to Watch

We are excited about our new Canadian Arab to Watch initiative, launched last month. The idea is simple: We have a wealth of leadership, innovation and contribution within our community. It's time we recognize these individuals. For more details about the program and for nominations forms, please head to our website.

This Month's Canadian Arab to Watch

We are very proud to present the first Canadian Arab to Watch of 2014, Dr. Kamal Al-Solaylee, for his impact on the fields of journalism and literature.
Kamal received the coveted Toronto Book Award in October 2013 for his debut work, a memoir recounting his experience of growing up as the youngest of 11 in Yemen, Lebanon and Egypt — as a gay man.

After completing his PhD in England, his ambition was to teach. Faculty positions were sparse and Kamal found himself instead at Canada's newspaper of record, The Globe and Mail. 

After years of contribution as the paper's theatre critic as well as amassing other bylines, Kamal's journey came full circle. He now teaches at, heads, and loves, the highly regarded undergraduate journalism program at Ryerson University. There he wants to instil in his students a deep sense of responsibilty. "Journalism is vital to democracy," he says emphatically. He pushes students to challenge their own assumptions and invites them into a conversation.

When asked about the prevalent sense amongst Arabs of bias in the media, he is understanding — acknowledging certain outlets take a negative approach — but not totally sympathetic. "I would flip that and ask, 'what are you doing to combat these images?'''

He believes it's up to Canadian Arabs to engage and fight back against perceived injustice: writing letters, complaining to press councils, getting involved. "Don't take it lying down," he says.

At the same time as we battle against external stereotypes, though, Kamal suggests we have a ways to go within the community on issues of sexuality and gender. "Human rights are absolute, they can't be parsed down," he says. "We tell others not to stereotype, not to judge us — we should extend that to other groups." For now, anyway, Kamal lives more without than within the local Arab community and implores other gay Arab men and women to "stand up and be counted" as a way of helping vulnerable youth be comfortable in their own skin.

The award-winning professor shows conspicuous humility throughout our conversation, almost shyness. On the one hand, he credits his family for providing opportunities. He recalls how his late mother — who herself could not read — had encouraged him to "escape" when he sought her blessings to leave to the U.K. He also acknowledges the role of patient editors and circumstance, being at the right place at the right time.

Importantly though, he dedicates his book to Toronto. "It was one opportunity after another," he says, largely crediting the city for his achievements. He praises Toronto's diversity and acceptance, its sense of security. After years of escaping conflict, and maintaining a relationship with an increasingly estranged family, Toronto is for Kamal, finally, home.

Intolerable: A Memoir of Extremes is on the bookshelves now. Kamal Al-Solaylee's next project will take a global look at race issues.

CAI honours Rotman's Roger Martin

Roger MartinCAI held a dinner on Dec. 16 honouring Professor Roger Martin, author of numerous books and one of the world’s foremost business thinkers. Martin is Premier’s Chair in Productivity & Competitiveness and Academic Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. He served as dean from 1998 to 2013 and was credited with its transformation into a world-class facility with a soaring reputation. Martin led a phenomenal expansion and transformation of the Rotman School of Management, and supported efforts to enhance Rotman’s presence in the Middle East and to improve Canadian understanding of business opportunities in the region. For more on the event, including videos, head to our event page.

Tina Tehranchian joins CAI Advisory Board

We are very happy to announce the newest addition to our Advisory Board. Tina Tehranchian, MA, CFP, CLU, CHFC is a senior financial planner and branch manager at Assante Capital Management Ltd. in Richmond Hill and a planned giving consultant at Donor Motivation Program. She is a fellow of FPSCTM and is widely featured in the national media as a financial planning expert based on her experience in this field since 1991. She currently serves as a trustee of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection and a director of the Fort York Foundation and is the chair of the board of MENA Arts Foundation, a nonprofit organization that aims to foster unity and cross-cultural understanding among communities in the Middle East, North Africa, and the world at large through the arts. She also served as a member of the Planned Giving Advisory Committee of the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation for over 10 years.

New CAI report examines Arab immigrant settlement patterns

A new report published by the Canadian Arab Institute shows that five in six Arab immigrants settled in Ontario or Quebec since 1985. Quebec received the majority of Arab immigrants, about 46% and Ontario welcomed about 41%. This pattern has remained consistent despite the economic downturn in both provinces and boons in Alberta and B.C. A clear draw to Quebec has been the French language for immigrants from Lebanon, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. In just five years, from 2008 to 2012, Quebec’s total Arab permanent resident population grew by nearly 40% and Ontario’s by over 25%. For full report, head to our website.

Upcoming CAI Events


Symposium: Third Annual Canadian Business Opportunities in the Middle East

Co-presented with Rotman School of Business: The event will highlight opportunities in the MENA region for Canadian businesses, explain economic and financial linkages between Canada and the Arab World, and feature an update from H.E. Wael Aboulmagd, the Egyptian Ambassador to Canada, on recent developments in the Middle East. Venue: Rotman School of Management, 105 St George St, Toronto. 
Jan 13 from 12-1 pm lunch & social; 1-5 pm program. Register here and get updates here.

Lecture: Iran and the Middle East: Regional Implications, with former ambassador to Iran Michel de Salaberry

Co-presented with the Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History: The first lecture in a series aimed at enhancing Canadian understanding of developments in the Middle East and North Africa. Venue: Munk School at 1 Devonshire Place, University of Toronto, Rm. 108N. 
Jan 14 at 5 pm, followed by a reception. Register by clicking on event here (free event, spaces are limited)

Intra-Arab Dialogue Series for Young Canadians: Challenging Sectarian Divides

Co-presented with The Mosaic Institute: The dialogue series is an opportunity for young Canadians to engage with policy experts, civil servants, researchers, community leaders and human rights activists to discuss how they can improve relations within diaspora communities in Canada with ties to the MidEast, and what roles they can play as members of the Arab diaspora to influence Canadian foreign policy. The series will feature film screenings, panel discussions and a community-service project. Venue: Ryerson University.

Launch: Jan 21 at 5:30 pm, screening of the award-winning film “Where Do we Go Now?” by Lebanese director Nadine Labaki. Dialogue series: from Jan 21 to March 12.
Go here to register (space is limited).

Lecture: Sectarianism in the Arab Region, Prof. Ussama Makdisi

University of Toronto, March 6. Details to follow

Keynote speech from Youth Conference now posted

View the stirring address entrepreneur Khaled Al Sabawi delivered at CAI's Professional Development Conference for Arab Youth on Sept. 21, 2013 at the University of Toronto. Our new YouTube channel includes other speeches of interest as well. For more info on the youth conference, head to our event page.

ROM's Mesopotamia exhibit ends a successful run

CAI was a proud community partner on the Royal Ontario Museum's Mesopotamia: Inventing Our World exhibit, which concluded on January 5. 

The exhibit ran for over six months and received rave reviews, like Maclean's calling it "one of the best exhibits that the ROM has put on in years." 

In addition, the ROM held a widely-covered event on Dec. 10 with the executive director of Médecins Sans Frontières in Canada and Mesopotamia curator Clemens Reichel entitled Syria Today: Humanitarian Crisis and the Destruction of Cultural Heritage. Listen to Stephen Cornish's full speech and view news coverage here.

Happy New Year!

We wish everyone here in Canada a wonderful 2014 filled with joy, fulfillment, health and giving, as we remember our brothers and sisters across the Arab world struggling for dignity. It may not be the year to end injustice, conflict, sectarianism and poverty, but it can very easily be the year we continue Nelson Mandela's legacy and do our utmost to participate locally and contribute globally.

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