“How Shall We Speak?” – The Casting Out of the Canadian Arab Federation

By Wafaa Hasan
Department of English and Cultural Studies, McMaster University

After over four decades, the Canadian Arab Foundation (CAF) has become an important conduit for expressing the needs and concerns of Canada‘s Arab community. Despite its important place in Canadian social, political and cultural life, the CAF faces serious financial difficulties and official marginalization. This chapter begins with a brief account of CAF‘s contemporary experiences with the Canadian government, outlining the fragility of CAF‘s future. Drawing on interviews with former CAF presidents, this chapter charts internal debates amongst Arab-Canadian leaders regarding the goals and challenges of Canadian multiculturalism. Such debates parallel some of the debates within the general Arab-Canadian community. The former CAF presidents interviewed include John Asfour, professor of English Literature and CAF president from 1997-2002; Raja Khouri, an organizational and race relations consultant, commissioner with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, co-chair of the advocacy committee of Human Rights Watch Canada and CAF president from 2002-2004; Omar Alghabra, former member of parliament and CAF president from 2004-2005; and Khaled Mouammar, former Immigration Refugee Board member and CAF president from 2006-2010. In combination with these interviews, this chapter explores various media and academic texts to reflect on broader power relations between Arab-Canadians and the Canadian government.

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