Canada’s refugee-turned-minister of immigration, Ahmed Hussen, was recently in Sydney during a multi-city visit to Australia, taking time to visit SSI Ignite Small Business Start-ups at the Addison Road Community Centre offices in Marrickville.
During this visit, he met with Ignite entrepreneurs who were able to share some of their stories with someone for whom the topic was not only a portfolio but also a lived experience.
At the age of 16, Mr Hussen fled to Canada during the civil war in Somalia. He studied law and went into practice before becoming Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship last year.
To a Sydney-based audience, Mr Hussen understated his narrative.
“Apart from our Indigenous population, the rest of us in Canada are either descendants of immigrants or immigrants ourselves … The history of modern Canada is a history of immigration,” he said.
Mr Hussen said that the current “global anxieties” around migrants and refugees turned a blind eye to the many economic benefits for increased immigration.
“Talent and investment have never been more mobile. And they will go where they are most welcome.”
Ignite Global Manager Dina Petrakis said that hosting a global public figure like Minister Hussen was a monumental event for both Ignite and its program participants.
“Minister Hussen’s lived experience evokes hope within our aspiring refugee entrepreneurs who, like the minister, have had to make a whole new start at life,” she said.
“His advocacy around casting a light on the economic benefits of increased migration helps to foster a more positive narrative on refugees.”
During his visit, Mr Hussen got a taste of Ignite business TEBA Catering’s Palestinian food and quickly became a lifelong fan.
While at Ignite, he lent his support to the International Metropolis Conference 2018 — “a global conference that allows global leaders to come together to have a discussion on migration issues” — that took place in Sydney in November, referring to its “dynamic program”.
He also expressed his excitement that the conference would be returning home to Canada in 2019.