Madam Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to rise today to speak in strong support of the Private Member's Bill moved by my colleague, the member for Ottawa South. It is Bill C-232, an act respecting Arab Heritage Month.
I want to thank the member for bringing this bill forward to the House. In the 41st Parliament, I had the opportunity to introduce my own piece of private member's business. Motion No. 155 designated June as Filipino Heritage Month across Canada, from coast to coast to coast. It was passed unanimously by the House, and I am sure Bill C-232 will receive similar widespread support.
I know how much the official creation of June as Filipino Heritage Month has meant to that community. They have taken this recognition and run with it, organizing local events, festivals and celebrations right across the country. I know that designating April as Arab Heritage Month in Canada will be equally meaningful and significant for Canada's large and proud Arab community.
As the member for Scarborough Centre, I have the privilege of representing a large and proud Arab community. They contribute to all aspects of life in our community, from the professions and the trades to small businesses and restaurants. In my community, they are a big part of the Scarborough food scene. From the shawarma at Sumac Iraqi Grill and Ibrahim Shawarma, to the burgers at Saltyz, from the ice cream and shakes at Crème et Miel to the meat at Al Ghadir Meats and Alwalaa Halal Meat, Arab-owned restaurants and grocers are a big part of my community.
I would also like to recognize the work of the Arab Community Centre of Toronto. It is an important foundation of the community in Scarborough, providing a meeting place and a focal point, and has done such important work to help newcomers feel welcome and to settle in our community.
I would also take this opportunity to recognize Al-Huda Muslim Society, which was established in 1993 to harbour the community and help preserve its cultural and Islamic atmosphere.
Today, Al-Huda strives to create one facility that offers the services of a mosque, school, youth centre, social hub, a cultural and educational centre and funeral services. The Al-Huda Scouts, school and youth programs are operating successfully at this centre. I can say that the Al-Huda Muslim Society is an important pillar of Scarborough Centre.
Many members of Canada's Arab community are former Syrian refugees who came to Canada in 2015 and beyond to flee the civil war raging in their country. Canada gave them a safe haven and a new start, and they, in turn, have given so much more to Canada.
We all know the story of Tareq Hadhad: the Syrian refugee who settled in Nova Scotia and started a chocolate business. Peace by Chocolate is one of Canada's sweetest immigrant success stories. The story is now a major motion picture I cannot wait to see on the big screen.
In Scarborough Centre, we have our very own Syrian refugee success story not with chocolate, but with kebab. Zakaria Al Mokdad was a restaurant owner in Syria before fleeing the civil war with his family and coming to Canada. He spent a year improving his English before working at Paramount Fine Foods, which is a restaurant chain founded by another successful immigrant entrepreneur named Mohamad Fakih.
In 2019, Zakaria opened Aleppo Kebab, which offers delicious Syrian food to the people of Scarborough. He is paying it forward by offering jobs to other newcomers to Canada. The customer favourite is the Aleppo kebab, with its unique blend of Syrian spices. It is one of my favourites. Last year, Zakaria obtained his Canadian citizenship, and we could not meet a prouder Canadian.
Another local Syrian refugee success story is Crown Pastries. It has quickly gained a reputation for having the best sweets in Scarborough, and I can assure members that is no easy title to earn. They have become so popular that when I went in to order some sweets the day before Eid, there was a line out the door. They told me I would have had to place my Eid order at least a week in advance.
Outside of Scarborough Centre, there are also Arab Canadians making a difference in all aspects of life in Canada. There is my friend, the Minister of Transport, who brings his lived experience to this important portfolio and his job representing the people of Mississauga Centre. Many members of the Arab community have been elected to serve in this chamber from all parties.
If someone has enjoyed classic pop hits like Put Your Head on My Shoulder, Diana or Puppy Love, they have been singing along to the classics of a proud Arab Canadian and one of Ottawa's favourite sons: Paul Anka. There are academics such as Hoda ElMaraghy, the first woman to serve as the dean of engineering at a Canadian university, and Mamdouh Shoukri, the former president of York University.
In the world of sports, many Maple Leafs fans may be disappointed that they do not still have the services of Nazem Kadri after their game seven exit from the playoffs this weekend.
There are so many Arab Canadians making a difference in the medical profession in Toronto and across Canada. Dr. Basem Naser at Toronto's SickKids hospital and Dr. Tarek Khalefih are doing great work with children, and Dr. Salah Ali and Dr. Nihad Abu Setteh are family doctors who are greatly respected by their patients.
I want to especially highlight a Canadian of Arab heritage who is not only a successful businessman and entrepreneur, but also a philanthropist and outspoken educator and worker for building a better Canada. I speak, of course, of Mohamad Fakih, president and CEO of Paramount Fine Foods. He has built the chain into a success with locations not only across Canada, but also in Pakistan, Lebanon and the U.K. He has helped to introduce Middle Eastern and Arab cuisine to too many people across Canada who never had the chance to try it before.
No matter which Paramount I visit, the food is consistently delicious, even if I do wish the chicken could be a little more spicy, but calling Mohamad Fakih a restaurant owner would only be scratching the surface. His commitment and generosity to this country are unparalleled. After the Quebec City mosque shootings, he paid funeral expenses for the victims and helped fund repairs to the mosque. He travelled to the front lines in Syria to better understand the refugee crisis and hired 150 refugees in his restaurants. His Canada Strong campaign raised nearly $3.3 million for the victims of the Ukraine International Airlines flight shot down by the Iranian military, and during the pandemic he has donated and delivered tens of thousands of meals to frontline workers, the homeless, food banks and others.
He is a man of conviction who uses his platform to stand up to hatred and bigotry, as we saw when he refused to back down in the face of public harassment and online videos attacking his religion and his character. In his work ethic, his generosity and his principles, Mohamad Fakih would probably tell us he is like any other Arab Canadian, and indeed like any other Canadian, and this is true. The Arab Canadians I know are warm, generous, hard-working and committed to their families and their communities. They are an important part of our Canadian family and help to contribute to the diversity that makes Canada strong.
I am proud to support this bill and this important recognition for Arab Canadians. I urge all my colleagues to support it, and next April let us celebrate Arab Heritage Month together.