There are many things that give me pleasure in being able to say, “I am Canadian” as this identity is replete with amazing opportunities for personal fulfillment and establishing strong roots. It is indeed a country suited for those in search of a better quality of life and has supported the thousands of Palestinians that have made Canada their home. According to a 2016 Census profile, the number of Canadians of Palestinian ancestry reached 44,280.
Leaving Great Footprints On A Land That Embraced Them
There isn’t a place around the world where Palestinians aren’t making a difference and inspiring people every day, but today I would like to highlight my favorite Canadian Palestinians, who we should all be proud of – they have gone beyond the ordinary to reach where they are today and are doing great things for their community and for Canada overall.
Nasri Tony Atweh
Success is all about adopting an intense attention to detail ethic.
Better known by his stage name Nasri, this Canadian-Palestinian is a Grammy Award winner, singer, songwriter and record producer. Nasri is the lead vocalist and songwriter for the famed reggae fusion band, Magic!. Some of their most popular songs include Let Your Hair Down, Rude, and No Way No.
Born and raised in Toronto, to Palestinian immigrants from Nazareth, Nasri began singing at the age of six in church and joined the school choir in High School. He graduated in 1999. His yearbook ambition was to be “where the music lives.”
Ruba Nadda – Directing A Way To Excellence
Ruba Nadda is an internationally and critically acclaimed writer, director and producer from Montreal. She has written and directed 17 films which include Lost Woman Story, Interstate Love Story, So Far Gone and Damascus Nights before writing and directing features I Always Come to You, Unsettled and Sabah. Her movie Cairo Time won the Best Canadian Feature Film award at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival and was Best Reviewed Romance on Rotten Tomatoes for 2010.
Nadda was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, to a Syrian father and a Palestinian mother. She studied Literature at York University in Toronto and continued to study Film Production at New York University’s Tisch School of Arts.
Khaled Mouammar – The Unshakable Voice against Israeli Apartheid Regime
Khaled Mouammar is one of Canada’s leading voices for Arab relations. In 1965, Khaled immigrated to Canada for a better life and became a leading representative for the Arab community there. He served as a board member for The Immigration and Refugee Board from 1994 to 2005 adjudicating on refugee claims and served three terms as the National President of the Canadian Arab Federation.
Born in Africa, he returned to his ancestral homeland of Palestine in 1947 to attend school before the 1948 Palestinian exodus when he was forced him to flee with his grandmother to Lebanon, riding a donkey through the mountains to reach safety. With no hope of returning to his homeland, he eventually became a Lebanese citizen, serving in the Army. Khaled holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Toronto; a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in mathematics, and a Diploma in Education form the American University in Beirut.
Khaled has received several awards and recognitions, including a Volunteer Service Award from the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Culture, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Award from the Governor General of Canada and a Certificate of Recognition from the Citizen’s Forum on Canada’s Future.
He has over thirty years of volunteer experience with organizations including the Arab Palestine Association, The Arab Community Centre of Toronto, The Urban Alliance of Race Relations, Canadian Ethnocultural Council, the Ontario Committee for Fairness and Policing and The Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid.
Today Khaled continues his mission as a consultant with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
Ahmad Balshe – Rapping-Out Unheard Immigrants’ Voices
Better known by his stage name Belly, Ahmed Ahmad Balshe is a Canadian rapper, singer, songwriter and record producer. He was born in the Palestinian West Bank town of Jenin and his family left for Ottawa, Ontario for a better life. When Belly was 19, he began exploring his love for music. He started out playing drums in various Ottawa punk bands and 21 years old started to focus on hip-hop, with the release of his debut mixtape, Death Before Dishonor: Vol. 1.
Active since the early 2000s, Belly broke through in 2007, the year he released The Revolution, which in Canada hit the Top 30 and won several awards. Several mixtapes followed and subsequent joint deals with Roc Nation and XO. This has led to wider distribution and greater commercial success in the U.S., beginning with the platinum 2015 single Might Not, among his numerous collaborations with The Weeknd, and continuing through the 2018 release of his second proper album, the pointed and outspoken IMMIGRANT.
Noora Sharrab – Empowering Refugees through Preserving Culture
Noora is a Palestinian Canadian from Toronto, where she coordinates and manages projects to support Palestinian refugees in Jordan. A multilayered activist, entrepreneur and mother of two, her love for her Palestinian brothers and sisters, and passion to empower them, have had a profound impact, fostering economic independence.
She is the co-founder of Sitti Soap, a social enterprise, ensuring fair wage employment to refugees through handmade natural olive oil soap produced in the cold-pressed method. Inspired by the tradition of soap making, Sitti restores hope and dignity to refugee women through this timeless craft. Using the profits from the soap bars, Sitti funds hard skills development and educational programs for refugee women and girls.
The Sitti product line, which began with a signature square bar of handmade, cold-pressed olive oil soap, has since expanded to a line of 10+ popular skincare and home items; including curated products through partnerships with ethical brands worldwide. Sitti has evolved into a niche, yet globalized brand that is retailed and distributed across the Middle East and North America.
Khaled Al Sabawi – World Class Entrepreneurship In Green Energy
Khaled Al Sabawi is an award-winning Canadian entrepreneur of Palestinian decent and Founder and President of MENA Geothermal and TABO Palestine. The son of Palestinian refugees from Gaza, he received his degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Waterloo in Canada in 2006 and later became the first certified Geothermal Engineer in the Arab Middle East. Khaled was named “One of the World’s Top Energy Entrepreneurs” by Global Post in 2010 and was ranked the 195th Most Influential Arab by Arabian Business Magazines in their Top 500 Most Influential Arabs ranking for 2012.
In 2013, Khaled received the prestigious Takreem Award for Young Entrepreneur at their highly publicized awards ceremony in Paris, France and was also featured on the cover of Forbes Middle `East in October 2014, with the caption beside his picture reading “Industry of the Impossible” in Arabic along with the a feature article titled “The Good Deed” in English.
Khaled’s vision to bring sustainable development to Palestine and the MENA region is best explained in his highly watched TEDxRamallah talk. In addition to speaking at TEDxRamallah, Khaled is constantly invited to share his vision on university campuses around the world.
He has spoken at McGill University in Canada, at Harvard University and MIT in the US, and other universities and major green energy conferences around the world.
Dalia Elcharbini – Depicting Cultural Heritage Through Art
Dalia Elcharbini is a contemporary artist and a proud Palestinian Canadian. Her work is often inspired by nature and her heritage. Dalia has been exhibiting her work throughout Canada and the US. Recently, her work has been chosen to be displayed at the first Palestinian museum in Washington D.C, which opened its doors on June 15th 2019, displaying priceless collections of art and documents gathered from around the world for visitors.
Her passion for art came to her as a child when she first learned how to hold a pencil. Dalia has always loved to tell stories through art and initially studied film at McMasters University in Hamilton Ontario, wanting to direct documentaries. Her father is from Acre and mother from Safad in Palestine and heritage and nature are often inspired in her work.
I have this intrinsic need and eagerness to tell our story through art and share the beauty of our culture with the world. One of my main objectives as an artist is to be able to leave a legacy of pride as the Palestinian artist who glorified her homeland, shed light on our culture, our right of return and resilience.
Her most popular piece Jerusalem Birth is a painting meant to scream and symbolize the true ethnicity of Jerusalem. The visual of the birth of Jerusalem to a Palestinian mother took over my mind. Symbolizing the historic and ethnic identity of the land’s capital.
Dalia plans to exhibit her work throughout Europe and Asia and grow her platform globally to be able to support some humanitarian initiatives that are close to her heart – one of which is raising money to start an art club in Gaza to combat the mental health issue that’s in crisis in Gaza.
Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Tanya knew that Palestine was her symbolic homeland. Always curious about her identity and connecting with her roots, she was eager to strengthen her ties to the Levant and traveled the region, desperate to learn more. It wasn’t until her first trip to Palestine that she became spiritually and emotionally connected.
She studied Political Science and Sociology at the University of Toronto. She then moved to the UAE, supporting numerous NGOs related to children’s welfare in the region. When she had her own family, she created the My Olive Roots platform in the hopes that her children and the Arabs diaspora would have a place to connect, learn and preserve their roots. Tanya enjoys discovering humanist stories and exploring the connection of food and art with culture.