News / Toronto

Wage Love: Stories of locals from countries targeted by the Trump ban

Torontonians from seven countries targeted by the Trump travel ban speak on Toronto's love, diversity and compassion.

Torontonians took to the streets earlier this week to denounce the Trump travel ban and spread messages of love and compassion.

Eduardo Lima / Metro Order this photo

Torontonians took to the streets earlier this week to denounce the Trump travel ban and spread messages of love and compassion.

As calls mount for more compassion and tolerance in the wake of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, Metro talked to Canadians whose families are from each of the seven affected countries about what the spirit of love and acceptance has meant to them.

Mayasa Swadi, of Markham, settled in the GTA after moving from her birthplace of Iraq to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

Eduardo Lima/Metro

Mayasa Swadi, of Markham, settled in the GTA after moving from her birthplace of Iraq to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

Iraq

Mayasa Swadi

(Lives in Markham)

Being born in a country “tormented by war after war” meant Swadi and her family led a nomadic life. She was only one year old when, in 1980, they moved to Egypt, then Saudi Arabia then to Syria. They eventually settled in Toronto, and, though the transition was hard in the beginning, Swadi didn’t take long to assimilate. “There’s just this feeling of compassion that makes you feel like you belong, like this is your home,” she said. Swadi also appreciates the support immigrants receive from the community. She’s planning to join protesters and add her voice to the movement calling for policies that don’t discriminate. “That gives me hope: Being able to say what you feel and advocate for a safe world for everyone,” she said.

When Adil Al-Serri came to Toronto in 2008 he was most thankful that the Arab Community Centre was looking for volunteers. It was his starting point.

Eduardo LIma/ Metro

When Adil Al-Serri came to Toronto in 2008 he was most thankful that the Arab Community Centre was looking for volunteers. It was his starting point.

Yemen

Adil Al-Serri

(Lives in Brampton)

When he arrived in Toronto in 2008, Al-Serri didn’t know many people and worried the transition was going to be difficult. But he was thankful for one thing: There was the Arab Community Centre and looking for volunteer opportunities there would be his starting point. “They’d send me to translate for new immigrants who didn’t speak English, and I ended up making many, many friends like that,” he said. What stood out for him was the extent of multiculturalism in every corner. Although he was new, he didn’t have to feel different. “It’s amazing. There are all these different groups of people, but you don’t see any divisions,” he said. Now, as founder of the Yemeni Canadian Club, his vision is to help uphold that sense of unity.

Rania El Mugammar, who was born in Sudan, says although things have improved since she arrived in Canada 16 years ago, the country is not immune to issues of racism and xenophobia.

Contributed

Rania El Mugammar, who was born in Sudan, says although things have improved since she arrived in Canada 16 years ago, the country is not immune to issues of racism and xenophobia.

Sudan

Rania El Mugammar

(Lives in Toronto)

When she first arrived in Toronto, El Mugammar didn’t fee like she belonged. People would ask her questions about being black and Muslim and why she didn’t wear a hijab. That was 16 years ago, and things have changed. The city’s growing diversity makes it easier for immigrants to find their footing, she said. “Almost 70 per cent of people in my neighbourhood of St. James Town came from somewhere else, which makes it a shared experience,” she said. “It’s easy to empathize and connect with a lot of people.” But that doesn’t mean Canada is immune to issues of racism and xenophobia. “We do something really dangerous of romanticizing Canada,” she said, noting issues like reconciliation, police treatment of black people, Islamophobia and women’s rights still need attention.

Mahsa Alimardani is proud of her Iranian-Canadian cultures.

Eduardo Lima/Metro

Mahsa Alimardani is proud of her Iranian-Canadian cultures.

Iran

Mahsa Alimardani

(Lives in Toronto)

One thing Alimardani appreciates most about Canada is the ability to meld both of her cultures. “I always introduce myself as Iranian-Canadian, and that makes me feel proud.” Alimardani grew up going back and forth between Iran and Canada, but was “fascinated” by the diversity of her school classes in Toronto. Being in a room where someone was Russian, Indian, French, Caribbean or Chinese made it feel “cool and normal,” she said. “You always feel welcome and loved, no matter where you came from.” It’s “shocking” to hear that a country as powerful as the U.S. is introducing policies that divide people because of the country they came from, she said. “No one deserves this. No nationalities deserve that kind of treatment.”

Osman Ali arrived in Toronto in 1978 from Somalia.

Eduardo Lima/Metro

Osman Ali arrived in Toronto in 1978 from Somalia.

Somalia

Osman Ali

(Lives in Etobicoke)

As a 20-year-old refugee arriving from Somalia in 1978, Ali thought nothing was going to be easy. He had nothing, and he knew no one in the country. But he was amazed at how friendly and welcoming people were. “It was easy to fall in love with Canada,” he said. “You couldn’t have wished to live anywhere else.” As he went through the immigration process, and later studied and started his own family, he continued to appreciate the country’s multiculturalism and the sense of diversity he sees in communities and in policymakers. “Canada is you and me. That’s really what I like.”

Eiman Zarrug left Libya when she was only four months old.

Eduardo Lima/Metro

Eiman Zarrug left Libya when she was only four months old.

Libya

Eiman Zarrug

(Lives in Toronto)

Her parents left Tripoli when she was only four months old, and Zarrug lived in London, England, before coming to Canada when she was eight. “The difference was like night and day,” she said, remembering being fascinated by the ability to find Ethiopian food or a Chinese restaurant. While her background made it a challenge to “fit in” with her young colleagues in Europe, it felt like an advantage in Canada. “Being different was comforting,” she said. “To this day, if you ask me where I’m from I’ll tell you that I’m Canadian before going into details of what’s written on my passport.” It’s encouraging to see people resist “disturbing policies that threaten our inclusiveness and diversity,” she said.

Mariam Hamaoui's parents moved to Canada when they were teenagers. She was born in Canada and carries her Canadian pride with her wherever she goes.

Eduardo Lima/Metro

Mariam Hamaoui's parents moved to Canada when they were teenagers. She was born in Canada and carries her Canadian pride with her wherever she goes.

Syria

Mariam Hamaoui

(Lives in Etobicoke)

Hamoui’s parents moved to Canada when they were teenagers, and as a Canadian-born citizen, she always carries that pride wherever she goes. “I have always felt included in society,” she said. “If I was discriminated against, it was from individuals who were racist and did not want to accept Arabs and Muslims in their society. But it never made me feel I didn’t belong.” The 24-year-old now wants to make sure other newcomers feel welcome and included. “Being from a diverse country is what makes Canada so great,” she said.

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