Nova Scotia appoints prominent Syrian refugee to business agency’s board

HALIFAX — Less than two years after he arrived as a refugee, a Syrian chocolatier has been named to the board of Nova Scotia’s economic development agency.

Tareq Hadhad is among the most high-profile of Syrian refugees in Canada — his family’s Peace by Chocolate in Antigonish, N.S., has been touted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the United Nations.

The provincial government announced Friday Hadhad will serve a four-year term on the board of Invest Nova Scotia, which oversees the government’s economic incentives.

Hadhad’s father ran a chocolate factory in Damascus with around 30 employees that shipped specialty treats all over the Middle East.

An aspiring physician, Hadhad says he abandoned his studies and fled to Lebanon with several family members after a 2012 bombing destroyed the business his father had built over the course of more than two decades.

The family spent three years at a refugee camp then settled in Antigonish in early 2016, as Canada accepted a wave of more than 25,000 Syrians.

Hadhad has said the family suffered some culture shock, but he said he was taken aback by how eager locals were to help him and his relatives fit into Canadian society.

“Tareq’s entrepreneurial journey and unique experience building the ↕Peacebychoco brand will be an invaluable addition to Invest NS Board,” Premier Stephen McNeil said in a tweet.

Hadhad has become an in-demand speaker, and the family’s chocolate business preparing to open a new factory amid booming business.

“It is my honour to serve .. and support innovative initiatives” in Nova Scotia,” Hadhad tweeted Friday.

Hadhad says Peace by Chocolate was founded in part as a way of “giving back” to the country that welcomed them so readily by creating jobs in their small community.

Kenneth Deveau, chair of Invest Nova Scotia, touted Hadhad’s “unique experience and perspective” in a statement Friday.

The province says Hadhad will be paid $150 for each monthly meeting he attends, and will be reimbursed for his expenses.

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