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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 named a Knight of the Order of the Pleiades, this MonAvenir school board agent involved in various advisory committees in French recalls a rich journey from his hometown, Marrakech, to his adopted city, Toronto.
“Why leave the AMDT presidency now?
I served two terms and even extended from 2018 because no one wanted to take over. On May 14, the election will designate new faces who will have the opportunity to continue what we have started and create other projects.
What fascinates you most about this role as president?
I was elected eight years ago at a time when everything had to be rebuilt from the ground up. We built a structure known and valued in the community. It is very rewarding. I have always enjoyed working in charities that promote exchange and knowledge. So it was natural for me to get involved in this partnership to support the immigrants who are settling in and to help change the fabric of the community. I wanted to show that we were capable of doing great things.
What “great thing” do you think especially?
We carried out the big project of having a Moroccan Consulate General in Toronto. As of June 2020, people no longer need to travel to Montreal and spend $ 500 to make a paper that costs $ 10. Thanks to the support of the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco and the Canadian Minister for International Trade, the Consulate General today 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 of all, organizing a great cultural evening that gathers more than 500 guests every March, although the pandemic has forced us to suspend it for two years. Then, with the opening of a stable venue that can welcome newcomers and help the community in different ways. We also organized a day for women entrepreneurs. This is the first time we have held a conference of this magnitude with a hundred business woman African and Canadian.
Is the Moroccan community growing in Ontario? Where is it concentrated and why is Toronto attracting you more and more?
For the past five or six years, I have witnessed an influx into the Greater Toronto Area, whereas before the trips were mostly from Morocco to Quebec. Despite the cost of living, people with qualifications come here for job opportunities and a desire to learn English. They come from Morocco, Quebec and the Middle East.
What does your new title of Knight of the Order of the Pleiades mean to you?
Highlight all the work you do and show respect for people for your work. It is very warm to the heart and gives energy to engage even more. Everything you do in the community, small or large, has an effect and is recognized as such.
What were your plans for studying international economic relations in Rabat?
Even before I finished my studies, something clicked inside me that pushed me to change my place, to see other horizons. I went to Europe. I was there for three months. But I was not comfortable, so I decided to go to Canada, where my sister already lived.
Have you maintained a link with Marrakech?
Yes, Marrakech is in my heart, although I left it at the age of seven to go to the capital, Rabat, to follow my family and my father, a career military man. Whenever I travel to Morocco, I spend half my time in Marrakech.
What can you find in Marrakech that you will never find in Toronto?
The lifestyle is very different, more European. Here you run, you run, while there it is very slow. People take time to eat, chat, get to know each other. I like this city because it is relaxing and the weather is very nice. After all the stress we can accumulate here, I relax a lot there.
Almost ten years after the cultivable spring that ravaged North Africa and the Middle East, has Morocco really changed?
This country has changed a lot, especially since the change of constitution in 2011. We realize this mainly from the outside and that we travel there once a year. It is true that there is still unemployment and much remains to be done, but in terms of rights, economy or even prosperity, there is a big difference that I have seen in recent years.
You have been working on the MonAvenir school board for 22 years. How do you think education in a minority setting is a crucial mission?
Education is important everywhere. Without education we cannot evolve. It means a lot to me. Beyond my administrative duties, I had the opportunity to briefly teach mathematics. Seeing how the blackboard is developing and how children are learning in their preferred language is rewarding. So, of course, we have to fight for these rights, but I hope that the new Official Languages Act will strengthen these rights so that Francophones are cared for in their language, not only in education but also in all business sectors.
What does it mean to raise the Moroccan flag every year in front of the Ontario Legislature and Toronto City Council that you never miss?
It is 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 is also an enrichment for young people who were born here in Canada and can better grasp the historical complexity of this country that has gone through colonization. and a few steps in the last 100 years.
You were a member of the Francophone Affairs Committee of the City of Toronto. Why is this structure so inefficient? Should it be reformed?
Many things need to change. This is my personal point of view. It was very slow and not my way. I went in for the love of the Francophonie and for the French to be recognized, but once inside I felt trapped. We talk, we hold meetings, we talk, we hold meetings … Often in English according to the municipal manager present. It doesn’t seem right not to find French-speaking people on a French committee.
Do you, who was on the board of the Toronto radio station CHOQ-FM, think that governments are helping the community media enough across the province?
There have been funds in recent years, but they are still limited. You have to be good at picking them up. The volunteer work done on these radios is colossal because you have to constantly look for funds and raise awareness for a station to survive. It is a very heavy job. It is a feat that needs the support of the community and governments.
As a member of the Advisory Committee on Racial and Ethnocultural Minorities, do you think that substantial progress has been made in taking minorities into account in our society?
The AFO is doing a good job. We exchange ideas on how to make room for these minorities. But at the government level, there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that inequalities persist.
Are you fascinated by environmental issues and climate change? Are there common problems between Morocco and Canada?
Yes, I dedicated my thesis to the environment in Morocco. I attended a global conference on climate change in Marrakech in 2017. It is a global issue that affects everyone. We should take this much more seriously. Canadians are very divided on this issue, but if we take it humanely and objectively, before we look at the economy, one day we will be forced to make concessions.
What projects do you have in mind?
I will cede the presidency of the AMDT, but that does not mean that it will disappear from the community. I will stay and help as much as I can. I will spend more time with my family and growing children. I also intend to develop my company and participate in various committees related to the Francophonie. »
FAOUZI METOUILLI KEY DATES
1969: Born in Marrakech, Morocco
1999: Immigrated to Ontario
2000: Joins the MonAvenir school board
2014: Becomes president of the Moroccan Association of Toronto
2020: Appointed peace adviser and ambassador to the United Nations
2022: Knight of the Order of the Pleiades
Every weekend, ONFR + meets with a player on French-speaking or political issues in Ontario and Canada.