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Lebanese envoy jumps into Ottawa’s cultural community

By Ally Foster      

While Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati welcomed Foreign Minister John Baird in Beirut on Aug. 10, the Lebanese head of mission in Ottawa was making preparations to welcome his family to their new home for the next few years.

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While Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati welcomed Foreign Minister John Baird in Beirut on Aug. 10, the Lebanese head of mission in Ottawa was making preparations to welcome his family to their new home for the next few years.

Sami Haddad, the new chargé d'affaires, arrived in Ottawa in mid-July and excitedly told Embassy during his Aug. 13 interview that his wife and four sons would be arriving later that very afternoon—as Mr. Baird also flew home to Canada.

"We had Foreign Affairs Minister Baird going to Lebanon, and we do appreciate very much the support of Canada to different projects in Lebanon and stability in Lebanon," said Mr. Haddad.

But the support for Lebanon comes as no surprise for Mr. Haddad, who said the two countries enjoy excellent bilateral relations.

Mr. Haddad said he is thrilled to be posted to such a "wonderful country" and is most looking forward to engaging with the large Lebanese community across Canada—including some of his own relatives, who now live in Toronto and Montreal.

In fact, Mr. Haddad was so anxious to engage with the Lebanese community in Ottawa that on the day he arrived he turned his back on the jet lag and attended a Lebanese festival.

"I had the opportunity to see hundreds of Lebanese on the first day and along with them, hundreds of Canadians," he said.

Mr. Haddad added that he enjoyed witnessing firsthand that so many Lebanese immigrants, tourists, and descendents are getting the chance to experience what Canada has to offer.

He cited Canada's democracy and freedom of speech as great values that are well known abroad.

"I am happy that the Lebanese community are very well exposed to this and are experiencing this life and these values," he said.

"They are proud Lebanese and proud Canadians, and I am happy with this."

The Lebanese community in Ottawa is very engaged with the embassy, he added. He also called Lebanese Canadians "vibrant" and said they are "very effective, committed, involved and social in business life in Canada."

This level of engagement should help Mr. Haddad with one of his top priorities in Ottawa: increasing economic ties between the two countries. He would like to improve economic relations, despite trade and businesses being already strong, he said.

Mr. Haddad, who has been a diplomat since 1998, has had two previous long-term postings in Germany and Qatar, as well as several short postings abroad that have lasted between three and six months.

His professional background shows diverse interests—his first degree was in business administration, but he also studied mobility issues faced by the blind, and did higher studies in music theory and technique.

Mr. Haddad plays the piano, and said he will have to look at putting one in his Ottawa home, as well as attending musical performances at the National Arts Centre.

Experiencing Canadian culture and music is one of many aspects of Canadian life that he said he will be trying to soak up "day after day."

But, like most major changes, the move to Ottawa has bittersweet moments; Mr. Haddad said the one thing he will miss most about home is his extended family and loved ones.

In particular, his ageing parents are hard to leave behind, but he said with a positive smile that because of technology, "we live in a small world, and I can always contact them."

afoster@embassymag.ca

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