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In Honour of Black History Month

Immigration is not a simple process. Not only does one face the hardships of starting a new life in a new country, but the social and cultural differences can make for an arduous adjustment once you reach your new home. Maj Hani Mustafa was in his early teens when his family made the decision to immigrate to Canada from Saudi Arabia, where he was born and raised. Speaking to his mindset in anticipation of this move, Maj Mustafa recounted, “... how much adjustment and learning and identifying with the new way of life here – how much challenge would that take – was completely uncertain, so there was fear in the beginning.”

Black History Month Portraits. Photo by: MCpl Darryl Hepner, 17 Wing Public Affairs, Winnipeg, Mb

Luckily, the then 13-year-old was not alone in this journey. His parents, having already immigrated to the Middle East before his birth from their native Sudan, modeled resilience for their children through this immense challenge. Their courage and endless resolve taught Maj Mustafa an important lesson: “After seeing the hardships that [they] went through, it gave my sibling and me a reminder that we don’t take life for granted and we have to work hard in order to make a decent living.”

This philosophy was instilled in Maj Mustafa even before their second immigration. His parents worked hard to ensure that their children would not forget their roots. Reflecting on childhood memories of their trips to see family back home in Sudan, Maj Mustafa recounted, “We saw the hardships that people went through. There was a civil war back then, conscription, and it taught me an important lesson to be self-reliant and to have a livelihood that is stable, no matter where we end up going.” Decades later, this lesson would influence his decision to enroll in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). He saw the military as a stable way to make a good living. His lifelong passion for aviation ultimately saw him rise through the ranks as an Aerospace Engineering Officer, leading to a diverse array of opportunities within his field.

Maj Mustafa’s family were his first mentors; their sacrifices modeled the hard work and dedication that he now demonstrates in his career. Furthermore, they taught him the importance of seeking experienced perspectives when facing new challenges. When asked if he could give one piece of advice to himself at the start of his career, Maj Mustafa had three simple words to offer: “seek a mentor.” This, too, was reflected in his hopes for the future of the CAF. Though he noted the considerable improvement that efforts towards diversity have made, he maintained that there are still advancements to be made in “the appraisal system, mentorship, and support for members of a visible minority, and specifically members that are newly landed immigrants that are not well versed... with the mentality, culture, and way of life of the Caucasian population of Canada.” Mentorship is more than just a boost on the ladder to success. Having an individual to relate to as you navigate a new and intimidating environment can change your life, just as it did for him.

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