A Nova Scotia chocolate maker who came to Canada as a Syrian refugee more than four years ago become a Canadian citizen on Wednesday.
Tareq Hadhad, founder of Peace by Chocolate in Antigonish, N.S., took part in a citizenship ceremony at Pier 21 in Halifax.
“It’s the biggest day ever,” Hadhad told Global News Morning on Wednesday.
Hadhad’s family made chocolates in Syria for more than 20 years, but their factory was destroyed in a bombing that forced them to leave the country.
Before they arrived in Canada, they were forced to live in a refugee camp in Lebanon.
Peace by Chocolate opened for business in 2016, and it gained worldwide attention after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave the company a shot at the United Nations summit on refugees that year.
“Just eight months after arriving in Canada, the family realized their dream and opened a small chocolate factory in their new hometown. It’s called Peace by Chocolate. And you can follow them on Facebook,” Trudeau told world leaders in New York.
The demand for business multiplied sixfold, allowing the Hadhads to sell their chocolate across Canada and, through the power of the internet, to the entire world.
The shed that originally housed the production of the Hadhads’ chocolate is now a retail shop. The company now operates out of a new factory, employing locals in Antigonish and newcomers to Canada.
Hadhad says that receiving his citizenship is the end of a long process that will result in Canada saying “welcome to the family.”
“Canada stands for freedom, opportunity, equality, fairness and inclusion,” said Hadhad.
“They didn’t call me ‘refugee’ when I arrived in Toronto, they called me a ‘new Canadian,’ so they have been telling me: ‘You are one of us already.'”
Throughout all of their success, the Hadhad family has credited the support they’ve received from their adoptive hometown. A community group called Syria-Antigonish Families Embrace (SAFE) sponsored the family’s arrival in Canada.
Hadhad has been unafraid to “give back,” announcing in 2019 that he plans to hire and train 50 refugees by 2022 to work in his company’s facilities.
“My family and I decided that it’s our turn to give back to our communities but also give hands to those coming newly to Canada,” he said at the time.
Hadhad wrote his citizenship test on Dec. 2, 2019 and says he passed with a perfect score.
He posted about his results in a video on Twitter.
“Can’t hide this anymore! I passed my Canadian citizenship test,” Hadhad wrote on Twitter, boasting that he made no mistakes.
“My ceremony will be in a few weeks. They said bring your family, but not sure if there is a venue that can fit 37.59 million Canadians, I have a big family now.”
Trudeau responded to the video with a message of congratulations.
“Your big Canadian family is very proud of you,” the prime minister wrote.
The rest of Hadhad’s family is expected to receive their citizenship later this year.
— With files from Global News’ Ross Lord and the Canadian Press