Born in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo |
Safia’s parents met in Toronto in 1977, when they were both visiting the city hoping to pursue opportunities not available in their respective home countries of Burundi and Kenya. After falling in love and getting married here, they decided they wanted to settle in Canada. Safia’s father still had business obligations in Zaire (now DRC), where most of his family resided – and this is where they had their daughter Safia. They had planned on staying longer in Zaire, but when Safia’s sister fell ill with asthma they knew they needed to make the move back to Canada. Growing up in Toronto, Safia emphasizes her appreciation of the city’s cultural pluralism; an appreciation that deepened after all of her travel to other places. She has come to cherish the festivals, music, cuisine, and other benefits that come along with such immense diversity and recognizes them as a celebration of difference.
“Many people view the idea of everyone being different to be a disadvantage or source of conflict; I, as do many Torontonians, feel that it is precisely this characteristic that unites us and sets our city apart.”
Safia did her undergraduate degree in Biology at the University of Waterloo, and is currently doing research on Huntington’s disease as part of a PhD in Medical Genetics at the University of British Columbia.
Toronto as Home
When Safia’s family moved to Canada, they lived near High Park. Her parents would regularly take her and her sister to Grenadier Pond to feed the ducks. They would be given bread slices to toss to the ducks – her parents’ way of connecting them with their new surroundings and nature. Safia says she has very fond memories of their trips to Grenadier Pond.
Connection with the Past
Safia is holding a photograph of her father racing in the 17th Safari du Zaire in 1983. This was an annual car rally held in Zaire and her father the co-pilot Zul (aka July) Ladha and his partner won the race. The trophy and victory photo hang in their home. Her father is very proud of this accomplishment, and seeing these items reminds him of “the good old days in Zaire.”
“My father and I joke about one day returning to DRC and entering the race together.”