Nakba Generation - Canadian Palestinians


Dr. Hakam Abu-Zahra
Dr. Abu-Zahra was born in Jerusalem, Palestine in 1935. He came to Canada in 1969. He started his career as a Research Fellow in Hematology at Queen`s University and established his name in medical clinical, administrative, research, palliative care, publishing, and fund-raising work.

He settled in Windsor, Ontario with his family, promoting his good work and influence extending across Canada. From 1983 to 1990 he was an Honorary Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Wayne State University, Michigan, USA. He held various senior positions at the Windsor Regional Cancer Centre (WRCC), in a career that took him to the top as CEO; Vice-President, Cancer Care Ontario; and Chief of Oncology at WRCC.Under the leadership of Dr. Abu-Zahra a group of distinguished community members established the ‘Dream Weaver Campaign’ to support what was eventually to become ‘The Windsor and Essex County Cancer Centre Foundation.’

The first MRI equipment in a Cancer Centre in Canada was installed at WRCC, again through his initiative and with support from Muslim and Arab physicians in Windsor. ​Dr. Abu-Zahra has received many awards for his contributions to his community and to medical services and is currently a Board Member of the Ontario License Appeal Tribunal. 

Pierre De Bané, LL.B.
Mr. De Bané was born in Haifa, Palestine, on August 2, 1938. His family immigrated to Canada in 1947 to escape the looming 1948 war, and settled in Quebec. De Bané studied at Trois-Rivières Seminary, Collège St-Alexandre, and University of Ottawa and graduated with a degree in law from Laval University. 

He was the first person of Arab descent to be elected to the Canadian House of Commons. In his time he served as a member of the Canadian Cabinet, and as a Senator. He is now retired.

Issa Fahel
Mr. Fahel was born in 1922, in Jaffa, Palestine. He arrived in Halifax as an immigrant in 1955. He became one of Canada`s most well-known, dedicated, and effective champions of the Palestinian/Arab cause, Mr. Fahel created momentum of the Palestinian narrative via his letters to the Halifax Herald shortly after his arrival. Eventually he received invitations to meet with President Nasser at the U.N., as well as other important international political dignitaries like King Hussein of Jordan, President Fidel Castro of Cuba, Marshall Tito of Yugoslavia and Prime Minister Nehru of India. 

Mr. Fahel did his utmost to make Canadians aware of the terrible injustices inflicted upon Palestinians and, at the request of the Arab Higher committee; he served as a member of the first Palestinian delegation to the U.N. in 1966. It was a time when Palestinians were viewed only as refugees and the Palestinian case presented to the U.N. General Assembly and Security Council failed to deliver positive results.

Mr. Fahel started up an extremely successful Middle-Eastern carpet import business just before the 1967 war. The family moved to Vancouver, B.C where he set up a retail store, but he continued to be interviewed by the media and to be included in debates on the Arab-Israel conflict. He passed away on 13 January 2003 at the age of 81.

George Farkouh

Mr. Farkouh is from Acre, in Palestine, and as a child was one of thousands of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. In 1959 the twelve-year old George immigrated to Canada. He is a renowned businessman and politician in his community: first elected to city council of Elliot Lake, Ontario in 1985, elected mayor in 1988, and served in that capacity until 2006 when he stepped down from public office to focus on his Chrysler dealership.

He led the City of Elliot Lake through an ambitious economic diversification program following the closure of the uranium mine in the early 1990s, which included delivering on the city’s goals in the development of tourism, cottaging and economic development, along with the delivery of quality municipal services. 

Marwan Taqtaq, B.Sc. (Pharm.)
​Mr. Taqtaq was born in Jerusalem in 1941. He graduated with a B.Sc. (Pharm.) from the American University of Beirut in 1965 and completed his apprenticeship in 1966 at Evans Medical Labs in Liverpool, England. Pharmacy is a traditional profession in his family, spanning many generations.

The ongoing war in the Middle East caused the scattering of his family between the West Bank, Amman and Beirut. He immigrated to Canada on November 8, 1967 and settled in Windsor, Ontario.

Mr. Taqtaq is an influential business man, with interests in a number of pharmacies and the South Walkerville Medical Centre; involvement in professional organizations including the Ontario College of Pharmacists; and in industries and fields as diverse as owning and operating the duty-free shop at the Windsor-Detroit tunnel. He also participated in the building of a hard gelatin capsule technology plant in Windsor that supplies most of the Middle East. 

Mr. Taqtaq is a committed, generous and greatly appreciated community leader in Windsor, with a number of medical, palliative care and accessibility contributions demonstrating his care and commitment. He has also been active in the Arab cultural and activist arenas, serving as President of the Windsor chapter of the Canadian Arab Federation and formerly holding membership in the National Council on Canada Arab relations. 

Dr. Ismail Zayid
Dr. Zayid was born in Beit Nuba, a Palestinian village that had existed for thousands of years until it was erased from the map by Israeli bulldozers during the 1967 war. The 12,000 residents of Beit Nuba and the surrounding villages, including the Zayid family, had to flee for their lives, exiled from their homes. Dr. Zayid arrived in Halifax on December 14, 1972.

Dr. Zayid, now retired, is Professor Emeritus of pathology at the Dalhousie School of Medicine in Halifax. He campaigned tirelessly against the infamous Canada Park, a JNF initiative, which was built on the site of his ancestral home in Palestine, and funded with Canadian tax-deductible donations. He has written, lectured and campaigned on the issues, misrepresentations and human rights violations in the region, and argued vociferously against Canada’s complicity in war crimes in Palestine, including the construction of Canada Park.

On June 19, 2012 his 40 years of community work was honored when he received the ‘Distinguished Humanitarian’ award by Canadian, Arabs and Jews for a Just Peace. 

Dr. Musa Shafiq Al-Khaldi
​​Dr. Al-Khaldi, born in 1925 and is originally from Jerusalem. He served for many years as an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Manitoba and was the first recipient of the Fr. Cecil Ryan Rector`s Award at St. Paul`s College for his outstanding contribution to the life of the college. Dr. Khalidi passed away in Winnipeg in 2002.

His son Dr. Nader Khalidi has continued the family honour by graduating from the University of Manitoba, faculty of Medicine in 1990 and is currently the Program Director for Rheumatology Residency Program and is Head of Service for Rheumatology at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, Ontario. He has particular interest in Vasculitis and Scleroderma. 

Dr. Farouq Chebib
​Dr. Chebib is a Syrian Canadian, born in Haifa, Palestine in 1933. He returned to Syria in 1948 with the flood of Palestinians fleeing from the Zionist take-over of Palestinians neighborhoods. He settled with his family in Winnipeg in 1958 and is considered to be one of the original Muslim pioneers in Manitoba.

Dr. Chebib, a research scientist, retired in 1987 from an illustrious academic and research career from the University of Manitoba, during which he wrote or co-authored over sixty scientific papers and books.

Please see the following link for more on Dr. Chebib - he has been featured on the Canadian Arab Institute website.

Dr. Michael Helewa
Dr. Helewa received his medical degree at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, following which he completed his postgraduate training in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Manitoba in 1987. He currently holds the positions of Associate Head Research, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, Head of Clinical Obstetrics at the St. Boniface General Hospital. Dr. Helewa was awarded the Undergraduate Teaching Award, University of Manitoba.

Wajih Zeid

Wajih Zeid was born in Beit Nabala/Ramleh, Palestine in 1944.  He immigrated to Manitoba in 1967 from Deir Ammar, a refugee camp near Ramallah, after two Canadian soldiers he met at a German coffee shop persuaded him to move to Manitoba. He subsequently sponsored his entire extended family with the result that there are now more than 500 Zeid family members in Winnipeg.  

At the time of his arrival in Manitoba he could speak German and was skilled at meat cutting.  His limited formal education and poor English language skills did not hold him back: he started out working long hours in humble jobs at Manitoba Sausage and a Chicken Delight outlet.  In the following 50 years he built his own grocery empire with five Foodfare stores and a Chicken Delight
Mr. Zeid and a fellow businessman Abdo El Tassi funded Al Hijra Islamic School, which offers classes up to Grade 9; employs
a dozen teachers; and is housed in its own building.  Together, the two men also started Winnipeg’s first mosque, on Hazelwood Avenue in St. Vital.
Mr. Zeid has strong ties to Palestine, which he visits several times a year. He is known for his generosity and leadership in the Canadian Palestinian community.

Suad Daher Zeid

Ms. Zeid was born in Beit Nabala/Ramleh, Palestine in 1946.  She came to Winnipeg in 1968 to join her husband Wajih.  As a Palestinian woman she survived occupation, expulsion and the intolerable conditions of refugee life. She spoke only Arabic when she arrived, taught herself English, and quickly integrated with her new community. A mother of seven and grandmother of 38 and the owner of a famous food chain in Winnipeg, Ms. Zeid serves as an extraordinary example of ingenuity, perseverance and ability to survive. She participates in all mosque functions, cooked free meals for newcomers, students and workers.  She also worked as a volunteer at the Arabic school where she assisted and coached widowed mothers, taking them under her wing, and showed them the way of life in Canada.  Ms. Zeid is a gifted dress maker and storyteller; she maintained her language, preserved her culture and the narrative of her expulsion through her dresses that she proudly wears and speak of her identity showing determination and unbreakable attachment to the land.

Rahileh Zeid Nakhleh

As her family fled from their village near Lydd, Ms. Nakhleh was born during the Nakba, on May 15, 1948, under a tree where the Ben Gurion Airport is now situated. Initially abandoning her baby in order to flee to safety, Fayka, her mother, could not go through with it and returned for her, and then rejoined the others in their flight to safety.

Ms. Nakheh’s early childhood was one of extreme deprivation and duress.  Women, children and the elderly were ordered to march to safety in inland areas, living their lives in the open, sleeping in makeshift shelters and sharing what little food could be found.

Ms. Nakhleh arrived in Manitoba in 1970, from Deir Ammar refugee camp beside Ramallah. In her successfully integrated new life in Winnipeg she gave birth to six children and has 14 grandchildren.

Although lacking formal education she is loved and appreciated in her community for her wisdom, kindness, her midwifery expertise, and her sound advice on reproductive health to women in the community, following ancient techniques learnt from old women in the camps.

Wardeh Najjar (Im George)

Wardeh Najjar was born in Jifna/Ramalla on September 27, 1923.  She is a cultural and historical icon in the Canadian Palestinian community. She arrived in Manitoba in 1979 from Jerusalem.  She is an oral historian with memories of the plight of Palestinians going back almost 90 years, which she recalls and retells with compelling vividity. She lives very independently and continues to prepare traditional foods for Palestinian households for feast days, keeping memories and traditions alive, contributing to the awareness of young Palestinians of lives and wealth lost, sacrifices made, and is a living example of courage and the ongoing determination to live a full life.

Canadian Palestinian Association in Manitoba