Justin Trudeau tastes refugee family's chocolate after N.S. meet-and-greet
Assam Hadhad, a Syrian refugee who arrived in Canada last year, displays a tray of chocolates at his shop, Peace by Chocolate, in Antigonish, N.S. on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)
SYDNEY, N.S. -- A Syrian refugee family who built a chocolate business in Nova Scotia had their product sampled by a special sweet-toothed Canadian -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Tareq Hadhad and his father, Issam, had an unexpected meet-and-greet with Trudeau during his trip to Sydney, N.S., last week.
A video of Thursday's encounter shows Trudeau embracing both men and calling the Hadhad family "an extraordinary example of the kind of strength and leadership and engagement that comes with bringing new people to Canada."
"He had been following the story for a while," Tareq Hadhad said Sunday in an interview. "He was so excited. When he came, he knew our names, he hugged us ... It was a very, very special thing for us."
Tareq Hadhad said Peace by Chocolate is struggling to keep up with orders since Trudeau put a spotlight on the Hadhads during a recent address to the United Nations.
Issam Hadhad ran a chocolate factory in Damascus with around 30 employees, according to his son, and shipped sweets to countries all over the Middle East. Tareq Hadhad says several family members fled to Lebanon after a 2012 bombing destroyed the business his father had built over the course of more than two decades.
After three years in a refugee camp, the Hadhads settled in Antigonish in January, where they were greeted by what Trudeau described to foreign leaders as "a bunch of big-hearted Canadians."
Tareq Hadhad agrees with the prime minister's assessment. "We came here with nothing," he said. "We are now in a very welcoming, warm-hearted country and we're so proud to be inspiring others."
With support from residents and various sponspors, the Hadhads opened Peace by Chocolate two months ago and business has been booming ever since, Tareq said.
The aspiring physician said the family wants to give back to the community by hiring locals and the Hadhads have launched a crowdfunding campaign so Peace by Chocolate can expand operations in time for the holiday season.
"The name itself has a very strong message," Tareq Hadhad said. "The world now needs peace, and the world now needs chocolate."
Peace by Chocolate has satisfed at least one sugar craving. The Hadhads gave Trudeau five boxes of maple leaf-shaped chocolates blending Syrian and Canadian flavours for a rich, nutty taste.
Trudeau said in a tweet Thursday that it was nice to meet the family behind the success story heard around the world -- and try the Hadhad's specialty treats.