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TORONTO – The president of the Moroccan Association of Toronto (AMDT) is about to pass the torch in a few days. Recently knighted in the Ordre de la Pléiade, this MonAvenir school board agent, who is involved in several advisory committees in French, looks back on a rich journey from his hometown of Marrakech to his adopted city of Toronto.
“Why leave the AMDT presidency now?
I did two terms and even extended it since 2018 because no one wanted to take over. On May 14, elections will identify new faces who will have the opportunity to continue what we have started and create other projects.
What fascinates you most in this role of chairman?
I was elected eight years ago at a time when everything had to be rebuilt from scratch. We built a structure that is known and appreciated in the community. It is well worth it. I’ve always enjoyed working for charities that promote sharing and knowledge. It was therefore natural for me to get involved in this association to support immigrants who settle in and contribute to changing the fabric of the community. I wanted to show that we were capable of great things.
What “great thing” are you thinking about in particular?
We have carried out the big project of having a Consulate General of Morocco in Toronto. As of June 2020, people no longer have to travel to Montreal and spend $500 to make a newspaper that costs $10. Thanks to the support of the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco and the Canadian Minister of International Trade, today the Consulate General not only serves the community but also establishes business partnerships that contribute to economic development.
How have you strengthened the cultural presence of Moroccans in Toronto over the past eight years?
First, by hosting a major cultural evening that brings together more than 500 guests each March, although the pandemic has forced us to pull this one off for the past two years. Then by opening a stable property that can receive newcomers and help the community in various ways. We also organized a conference of women entrepreneurs. This is the first time we have held a conference of this magnitude with 100 business woman African and Canadian.
Is Ontario’s Moroccan Community Growing? Where is it concentrated and why is Toronto increasingly attracting it?
Over the past five or six years, I’ve witnessed an influx into the Greater Toronto Area, where previously travel was primarily from Morocco to Quebec. Despite the cost of living, graduates come here for the job opportunities and the desire to learn English. They come from Morocco, Quebec and the Middle East.
What does your new title of Knight of the Ordre de la Pléiade mean to you?
It highlights all the work you do and shows the respect people have for your work. It is really warm for the heart and it gives the energy to put in even more. Everything you do in the community, big or small, has an effect and is recognized as such.
What were your plans when you studied international economic relations in Rabat?
Even before I had finished my studies, something clicked in me that forced me to change my place, to see other horizons. I went to Europe. I stayed there for three months. But I didn’t feel comfortable, so I decided to go to Canada, where my sister already lived.
Have you maintained a connection with Marrakech?
Yes, Marrakech is in my heart, even though I left it at the age of seven to go to the capital Rabat, to follow my family and my father, a professional soldier. When I travel to Morocco, I stay in Marrakech half of my time.
What will you find in Marrakech that you will never find in Toronto?
The lifestyle is very different, more European. Here you run, you run, while it is very slow there. People take the time to eat, chat, meet. I like this city because it is relaxing and the climate is very pleasant. After all the stress that we can accumulate here, I can relax there.
Nearly ten years after arable farming that swept across North Africa and the Middle East, has Morocco really changed?
This country has changed a lot, especially since the constitutional amendment in 2011. We realize this mainly from the outside and that we go there once a year. Admittedly, there is still unemployment and much remains to be done, but in terms of rights, economics or even wealth there is a big difference that I have seen in recent years.
You have been working for the MonAvenir school board for 22 years. In what way is education in a minority setting a crucial mission in your view?
Education is important everywhere. We cannot evolve without education. It means a lot to me. In addition to my administrative duties, I had the opportunity to briefly teach mathematics. It is worth watching how the board develops and how the children learn in their preferred language. So of course you have to fight to get these rights, but I hope that the new Official Languages Act will strengthen these rights for French speakers to be served in their language, not only in education but also in all business sectors.
What does the raising of the Moroccan flag every year for the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and Toronto City Hall mean that you will never miss?
It’s a historic moment. Every November 18 we commemorate the independence of Morocco and we want to preserve this history. It is a source of pride for us because it reminds us of our country of origin, but it also enriches young people born here in Canada who can better understand the historical complexities of this country that has gone through colonization. and quite a few steps in the past 100 years.
You were a member of the City of Toronto’s Francophone Affairs Committee. Why is this structure so inefficient? Should it be reformed?
Many things need to be changed. This is my personal point of view. It was very slow and it’s not my way. I entered it out of love for Francophonie and for French to be recognized, but once inside I felt stuck. We talk, we have meetings, we talk, we have meetings… Often in English according to the city official present. It doesn’t look good not to find French speaking people in a French committee.
You who sat on the board of directors for Toronto radio station CHOQ-FM, do you think the governments are helping community media across the province enough?
Money has been made in recent years, but it remains limited. You have to be able to pick them up well. The volunteer work done in these radios is colossal because it is necessary to constantly find funds and raise awareness for a station to survive. It is very hard work. It is an achievement that needs the support of the community and governments.
As a member of the Advisory Committee on Racial and Ethno-Cultural Minorities, do you think that substantial progress has been made in taking minorities into account in our society?
The AFO does a good job. We exchange ideas about how we can give these minorities space. But at the government level, there is still a lot of work to be done, as inequalities persist.
Is it true that environmental issues and climate change fascinate you? Are there common problems between Morocco and Canada?
Yes, I have devoted my thesis to the environment in Morocco. I attended a global conference on climate change in Marrakech in 2017. It is a global problem that affects everyone. We should take this much more seriously. Canadians are very divided on this issue, but if we look at it humanely and objectively, before we look at the economy, we will one day be forced to make concessions.
What projects do you have in mind?
I’m going to hand over the chairmanship of the AMDT, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to disappear from the community. I will stay and help where I can. I will make more time for my family and my growing children. I also plan to develop my business and participate in various committees related to La Francophonie. †
FAOUZI METOUILLI IMPORTANT DATES
1969: Born in Marrakesh, Morocco
1999: emigrated to Ontario
2000: Joined the MonAvenir School Board
2014: Becomes President of the Moroccan Association of Toronto
2020: Appointed Advisor and Ambassador for Peace by the United Nations
2022: Knight of the Order of the Pléiade
Every weekend ONFR+ meets a player on Francophone or political issues in Ontario and Canada.