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El-Tantawy Attia Headshot

A Father's Plea For Help After 44 Years Of Giving To Canadian Society

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I arrived as an Egyptian student to Canada with the conviction that Canada was a land of dignity, opportunity, and beauty. Since then, I have always known Canada to be a land of opportunities for my own growth and for me to give towards its betterment. Now, 44 years after my arrival, my wife Howaida and I have watched our family grow to become three generations of Canadians. Howaida and I have always fostered the value of giving amongst our nine children -- a pharmacist, two engineers, two teachers, a financial analyst, a culinary specialist and two university students -- and 12 grandchildren.

In 2013, Minister Reza Moridi presented me with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of my contributions and achievements as a Canadian. To me, this is not a solitary achievement, but rather the culmination of years of service that our family has collectively been dedicated towards. Today, however, I come as a humble Canadian father, imploring our Canadian Prime Minister for his help.

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Howaida and I have been blessed. We are proud of each of our children, including my beloved daughter, Sarah Attia. I have observed Sarah grow to become a strong woman making positive difference wherever she is and excel in every endeavor she undertakes. This is what led her to studying engineering in the University of Toronto, where she would meet her future husband Khaled Al-Qazzaz, an equally determined soul. Both were community activists on campus that left their mark on the communities around them.

After marriage, they put their engineering careers on hold to go overseas and impact change. Sarah and Khaled established an education project to develop young Egyptian minds to reach high levels of academic achievement while acquiring the skills and values to become responsible members of Egyptian society.

The revolution in Egypt represented everything Sarah and Khaled taught their students about democracy, rights and freedoms. This hope steered Sarah and Khaled once more in a new direction, as Khaled was asked to work in the president's office to oversee the human rights and women's rights situation in Egypt.

To our dismay, a year later, my son-in-law Khaled was illegally detained for 558 days without charge. International outcry forced his release, but our family's nightmare continues. Khaled, Sarah and their four children have been held unjustly in Egypt unable to leave the country for over 13 months.

I continue to be a strong believer of that vision for our country, and I want Canadians to know that my family continues to be dedicated to bettering our communities as conscientious Canadians.

It took our country's leaders, and the help of the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, to lead to Khaled's release from prison in January 2015 after 558 days of solitary confinement without charge. It has taken years of campaigning by members of my own family, their friends and many Canadian supporters, to bring international attention to Khaled's plight. Now, after all this effort, tears and sleepless nights, the Egyptian regime continues to block my Canadian family from coming home.

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Image of of Sarah Attia and her children reunited with Khaled Al-Qazzaz in February 2015. Egypt has blocked them from returning to Canada as a family since

In David Miller's book Witness to a City, the former Toronto Mayor highlights my work amongst 18 other Canadians, in shaping the city's growth as leaders in multiculturalism and community service. I continue to be a strong believer of that vision for our country, and I want Canadians to know that my family continues to be dedicated to bettering our communities as conscientious Canadians. I am asking the Honourable Prime Minister Trudeau, and the Canadian public, to reunite us with Sarah and Khaled and their children once more. They've served this country with me for years and are in need of Canadians to stand up for them now.

I ask our new government to petition the Egyptians so my four grandchildren can return to Canada with their father. It's time for Canada to reclaim its position as an international champion of human rights. What better place to start than to stand up for one of its own? Help end this ordeal.

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A recent press conference in Ottawa held by the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG), Amnesty International and Children's Rights Expert and Assistant Professor Tara Collins of Ryerson University on Parliament Hill to call on the Honourable Prime Minister to intervene on behalf of four Canadian children

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