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Wadih Fares speaking at Pier 21, 2009.

Wadih Fares speaking at Pier 21, 2009.

Wadih Fares is a community developer, in more ways than one. A professional pillar in the Halifax urban development scene and a man who lends his time and talents voluntarily to a number of worthy community causes and organizations, Fares is a prime personal example of how immigrants in communities across Canada shape our culture, economy and way of life.

In 1976, as an 18-year-old, Fares left his family, his native Diman, Lebanon, and the front lines of a civil war that was raging, in search of a better life in Canada. Arriving in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Fares quickly realized that his command of Arabic and French would not help him as much as he had anticipated, in spite of Canada being a bilingual nation. The relatives who greeted him upon arrival were a welcome support as he worked to settle into his new home.

Barely speaking a word of English, Fares enrolled to study engineering at Dalhousie University. Despite the enormous challenge that studying while learning the language posed, he persevered and graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering degree from the Technical University of Nova Scotia and a Diploma of Engineering from Dalhousie University.

The hard work ethic and drive to succeed that saw Wadih through his studies kept him going well after graduation. He went on to found WM Fares Group in 1984, of which he is President and CEO today, a company that combined architecture, engineering, construction and property management into one enterprise, a novel concept at the time. His business grew and prospered.

Now with over 25 years of professional experience, Wadih looks back and recognizes the importance of community support in helping newcomers get established. He points to the support he received from the Lebanese-Canadian community in Halifax as an important factor in getting his start, “I was lucky to have a community here to help me. They gave me my first job, they gave me my first business loan, and they supported me through the growth of both my family and my business.”

Today, the landscape of the Maritimes, Ontario and Alberta has been permanently transformed by the developments spearheaded by WM Fares Group. Inducted into Atlantic Business Magazine’s Top 50 CEO Hall of Fame in 2012, recipient of an Honorary Doctorate in Commerce from Saint Mary’s University in 2009 and named Business Person of the Year respectively by the Halifax Chamber of Commerce and the Lebanese Chamber of Commerce & Industry of Montreal, among many other accolades, Fares has certainly made his mark professionally in Canada.

However his impact on the community, and our nation, goes well beyond his professional achievements. Fares also truly helps build community in the social sense, through his efforts and involvement in a volunteer capacity. He serves on the board of many local organizations, including as past Chair and former member of the Board of Directors of the Pier 21 Society. His dedication to organizations including Family SOS, The Salvation Army, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Junior Achievement demonstrates his commitment to making his community a better place to live and work for all. For his contributions to Nova Scotia, as an entrepreneur, community leader and committed volunteer, Fares was named as a Member of the Order of Canada in 2012. 

When asked about his contributions, Fares humbly references the famous Lebanese poet Gibran Khalil Gibran: “[Gibran] said ‘I felt in my heart to give a little, because I was given so much.’ And that’s [what it’s] all about...”

You can certainly tell that this philosophy guides Fares in his own community involvement.  As an advocate for immigration in Nova Scotia, serving on the Minister’s Immigration Advisory Council, he believes in celebrating the unique talents that each person brings to this province, and to Canada.

Notwithstanding his exceptional professional success and many personal accomplishments, Fares remembers his start in this country and what it was like to be a newcomer:  “I remember my first months here…everything was new. New language, new school, new people, new country. New rules, new food and new climate!  It was tough, but I persevered, and today I am a grandfather, a business owner and a proud Haligonian. I hope that in thirty years, [other] newcomers…can say the same things.” 

This recognition of the potential in us all and the impact that immigrants have on Canada, combined with the passion and dedication that have driven Wadih Fares to where he is today, make him a successful community developer in every sense of the word.

The Museum is honoured to have hosted Fares as keynote speaker of the 11th Breakfast with a Fascinating Canadian on November 7, 2012, presented by the Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education and supported by HSBC Bank Canada.