Newcomer Mustafa

Newcomer Mustafa Rashid is embracing life in Ottawa, including fishing on the Ottawa River.

another FACES success story

By Don Greenfield and Tom Martin

Mustafa Rashid was a recent engineering graduate working in Baghdad in 2012 when he attended a peaceful demonstration calling for the release of political prisoners in Iraq. Because of his participation, he was targeted for reprisal by a militia group known for sectarian attacks and was forced to leave Baghdad and his job. Almost a year later, in September 2013, he left Iraq for Turkey, where he enrolled in a Master of Science program in Engineering.

When ISIS took control of Ramadi, Mustafa’s family’s hometown, his sister joined him in Turkey. Mustafa completed his MSc, began his PhD and got a job working for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a UN agency working with national governments to resettle refugees, mainly Syrian, living in Turkey.

Rashid is a project manager helping in the restoration of the heritage Perth County Courthouse.
Photos: Mustafa Rashid

FACES is a group of volunteers from three churches – St. Matthew’s, St. Giles and Glebe-St. James – and from the wider community who have supported more than 75 newcomers to Canada. FACES “met” Mustafa in late 2015 when he was assisting FACES as an IOM contact in Turkey coordinating other sponsored families. FACES applied to sponsor him for resettlement in Canada in June 2016. Three years later he arrived in Ottawa.

During his first year in Ottawa, Mustafa studied to improve his English. He found a downtown apartment, joined a salsa group and took tango lessons. He got a bicycle and spent his free time exploring Ottawa. At the start of the COVID lockdown, he was online looking for work and before the end of his first year in Canada, he found a full-time job as a project coordinator with a commercial renovation company. After two years of handling many projects with the company, Mustafa had the opportunity to become part of a big project that had an impact on the community: the Perth County Courthouse, a heritage building that opened on May 9, 1887. Recently Mustafa moved to a new company to take on a more senior position as a construction project manager. He works mainly on multi-unit residential properties, planning and coordinating all aspects of the construction process including working relationships with engineers, architects and vendors.

Mustafa is very grateful to have settled in Canada. He has truly embraced the available opportunities. When asked how Canada could improve its resettling of refugees, Mustafa responded, “First, there is a need to accelerate the visa processing period. It took three years from the time my application was submitted to my arrival in Canada. For many applicants, this wait entails a period where life is very hard and sometimes dangerous. Second, Canada would benefit from better programs to integrate newcomers into the work force and make use of their education and work experience. Many people with higher education, such as engineers and doctors, do Uber because it is hard for them to obtain Canadian accreditation of their training received abroad.”

Mustafa is still discovering Ottawa and Canada. During the pandemic, he created a YouTube channel @Dr.Toffi and an Instagram page @drtoffi and published traditional Iraqi recipes in both Arabic and English. Mustafa continues to enjoy dancing as part of the Latino dance community in Ottawa. He is preparing with his dance team for a “flash mob” that will take place in June at the Place des Armes in Montreal.

He hopes someday that he will be reunited with his sister and her husband who are still living in Turkey. FACES have agreed to sponsor the couple, and hopefully they will arrive in Canada within the next two years.

It is clear to the volunteers at FACES that Mustafa will succeed in Canada and be a valuable member of Canadian society. He is a friendly, outgoing man with a great sense of humour who wants to take part in everything his new country has to offer.

Don Greenfield and Tom Martin are FACES volunteers.

FACES seeks justice by assisting refugees to come to Canada and by supporting the refugees’ transition to a new life here. FACES is committed to being inclusive and open in refugee sponsorship regardless of faith, ethnicity, health condition or sexual orientation. FACES also believes there are benefits in working together and in reaching out to the local community for commitment and support in the pursuit of its purpose.

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