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'Hate will never win in Canada': Syrian restaurant in Toronto set to reopen
Published Thursday, October 10, 2019 11:19AM EDT Last Updated Friday, October 11, 2019 6:34AM EDT
TORONTO -- The owners of a popular Syrian restaurant in Toronto that closed after they said its staff received multiple death threats have vowed to not let hate win and said they will reopen on Friday.
Soufi's, a well-known Queen West restaurant operated by a Syrian family who recently immigrated to Canada, announced on Tuesday they would be permanently closed to maintain their safety.
"As a result of numerous hate messages & death threats we've received over the past week, we've decided to permanently close our shop,” a statement posted on Soufi’s Instagram account said.
On Wednesday morning, CTV News Toronto learned Paramount Fine Foods founder and CEO Mohamad Fakih spoke with a member of the Al-Soufi family and offered to help them reopen.
Speaking together inside the restaurant on Thursday, Fakih and the Al-Soufi family announced the restaurant would reopen on Friday under the management of Paramount Fine Foods.
Paramount Fine Foods founder and CEO Mohamad Fakih is seen in this photo. (CTV News Toronto)
"I'm happy to share with you great news,” Fakih said. "I'm stepping in and the Paramount team will be stepping in to help them maintain this business."
"I don’t think business should be closed. This is a thriving business run by two incredible friends."
"They came here four years ago and created a business we all love. Yesterday, I reached out to the family and I told them I wanted them to feel they are not alone in this."
"I will stand beside them and we will all stand beside them. Anyone who comes to Canada to start a business should never be treated that way."
"We are going to be sending a message that hate will never win in Canada."
Fakih said while Paramount Fine Foods will manage the business, all the profits will go back to the family. The employees who lost their jobs when the restaurant closed will be rehired, Fakih said.
Husam Al-Soufi announces his restaurant will open on Friday. (CTV News Toronto)
"I really do not want anything from this other than making sure this restaurant is open."
Husam Al-Soufi said the decision earlier this week to close his restaurant "came from a place of fear."
"We hoped the threat to our family and staff would dissolve,” Al-Soufi said. “We just wanted it all to end and live in peace again."
"But the public reaction to the decision was beyond what we could have imagined. We received heartfelt messages from all over Canada."
"We do not wish to be a tragic example for future immigrants and refugee business owners - as the business who gave into hate."
Police said the Al-Soufi family filed an official complaint with authorities and the hate crime unit is now investigating the case.
The death threats against the Al-Soufi’s stemmed from an incident that involved the owners’ son outside of a fundraiser in Hamilton for Maxime Bernier’s People's Party of Canada.
Video circulating online showed an elderly woman being harassed by protesters outside Mohawk College, where the event was held on Sept. 29.
In an apology published on Facebook days later, the restaurant confirmed that the owners' son Alaa was one of the protesters at the event.
"We would like to formally apologize for the incident that occurred with the elderly woman. Alaa regrets that he did not step aside and/ or stand up against the act of verbal abuse that occurred against her, and would love the opportunity to personally extend his apologies to her," the family said.
"Our family and business do not condone acts of hate, violence or harassment in any shape or form, and advocate for peace, equality and free speech for all human beings. Our family immigrated to Canada with the intention of living and working peacefully."
The owners said the restaurant, which offers traditional Syrian street food, was the first of its kind in Toronto when it opened in 2017 and the restaurant attracted a considerable amount of buzz from foodies at home and abroad.
The Syrian spot was featured in Toronto Life, Now Magazine, and was even profiled in an article by the New York Times, which referred to the restaurant's food as Toronto's "new craving."