A refugee's journey to seek safety and stability

One man’s journey from refugee to community leader was made possible by the Health Centre team.


Bassam Lazar came to Canada with his parents and his 9 brothers and sisters in 1993. They were Iraqi refugees looking for a safe country to live in. First they had fled to Turkey, and there they had waited in limbo for 2 long years until Canada opened its doors. The family landed in Toronto and they all thought that their journey was at an end. Bassam remembers being surprised when they were moved along into a van for yet another leg of their voyage. 

We were sure that Toronto was going to be our new home, and all of a sudden we were in a van and driving away into the unknown again.
— BL

The drive down the 401 brought them to London, their new home. “They dropped us off at a place called Global House that was a block away from the London InterCommunity Health Centre. As part of the process, we went to the Health Centre to see the doctors. It was our first exposure to the Canadian health care system, and they did a great job taking care of all 12 of us.” The Health Centre was the central hub of their first months in London. Most Londoners aren’t aware of the support for new immigrants offered by the Health Centre, but that support was vital for the Lazars. No one in the family spoke any English, but they formed a fast and strong bond with the support and medical staff at the centre. The neighbourhood around the Health Centre was their neighbourhood, and they embraced their new home. To this day, Bassam’s father still visits the Health Centre whenever he needs to see his family doctor.

20 years later, Bassam is a busy guy. He’s a practicing lawyer, a partner in a local restaurant, and a happily married man. Despite his full schedule, he’s giving back to the community and the organization that had such a direct impact on his life. He joined the board of directors of the Health Centre to use his skills and experience to inform the policies and decisions made by the board. He knows directly how important their work is, and he can give them real examples of how their policies and values make the lives of new immigrants better.