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Boy who was ISIS captive behind movement to bring bicycles to refugee children

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Emad Mishko Tamo looks excitedly at his bright-green mountain bike and talks about how he’s looking forward to summer cycling adventures with other Yazidi refugee children in his community.

For the 14-year-old boy, the bicycle stands for freedom, something that only a few years ago was snatched away from him and his family when they were taken by Iraqi militants and held captive for three years.

Now, he’s behind a movement to bring new bicycles to all Yazidi refugee children in Winnipeg.

« I saw so many kids they suffered when they were captured by ISIS. There were so many kids they were crying. They were dead. We saw a lot of things, » Emad said through translator Khalil Hesso, president of the Yazidi Association of Manitoba.

« Since that I promised to myself any kids I will see I will help. »

Emad lived happily with his family in an Iraqi village until the summer of 2014 when it was attacked by Islamic State militants.

Emad was separated from his mother, Nofa Mihlo Zaghla, as thousands of members of the Kurdish-minority Yazidis were displaced. His mother was held captive for two years but, during an attack on the compound, she was eventually able to escape with four of her children. She made her way to Canada and settled in Winnipeg.

She thought her young son was dead.

But after some Yazidis were freed in Mosul in 2017, a photo emerged online of a young boy, covered in dust, sitting in the front seat of a vehicle.

The Iraqi army posted this photo on social media after rescuing Emad Mishko Tamo, in hopes of finding his family. Within days, his mother in Winnipeg saw it. (Facebook)

It was Emad.

Action was quickly taken to reunite the teenager with his surviving family in Winnipeg. When he arrived at his new home, in a new country, a bicycle was waiting for him.

« Emad was coming from three years of being held hostage. He didn’t have anything like a bicycle or basketball or soccer ball, » Steve Maman, founder of the Liberation of Christian and Yazidi Children of Iraq (CYCI), said in an interview from Montreal.

He was the one who donated Emad’s bike.

« To him a bicycle was something he didn’t expect to ever own, living in Kurdistan as a child … I could imagine to a child like that a bicycle would mean something very important — a dream. »

Emad and his family worked hard to make a life and find happiness in Winnipeg, but there were still struggles and worries in Iraq.

Yazidi boy Emad Mishko Tamo was reunited with his mother and younger siblings in Winnipeg today, after being held captive by ISIS and years of separation. 2:31

Emad’s uncle, Hadji Tamo Rafo Zaghler, points to a wall in their apartment where the faces of 12 family members hang on a poster. They include Emad’s father who Zaghler says was found in a mass grave. They don’t know what happened to most of the others.

When Maman was catching up with Emad in a phone call last summer he learned the bicycle had been stolen. Maman knew how much it meant to the teenage refugee, so he offered to buy him another one. Emad insisted he’d only want another one if they could find a way to get all the Yazidi refugee children in Winnipeg bikes.

« He wanted to … help victims of genocide because he’s thinking of other children who have nothing, » Maman said. « It’s impressive. I wanted to be able to fulfil his will of him believing in himself. »

At first it seemed as if it might be a difficult feat to pull off, Maman said, but soon things started to fall into place.

It was just happenstance that he would connect with Bryan Phillips, a car enthusiast from Terre Haute, Ind., who purchased engine parts from Maman to fix up an old — but nice — Bentley. While the two men were discussing cars, the goal to get bicycles to refugee children came up.

Phillips said he didn’t think twice about offering the Bentley for sale to help fulfil Emad’s dream.

Maman took the profits from the car’s sale and purchased 100 bicycles to be delivered to refugee children during a special Yazidi Eid celebration this coming Friday.

Maman said it was important to fulfil Emad’s wish to encourage him to continue helping others and to show how he can achieve anything.

As Emad and his cousins, dreaming of warm spring days, pretend to ride a bicycle in the apartment, Hesso smiles and says the bikes will mean everything to the children.

« The Yazidi community, we are not going to forget that. »

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Anglais

‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Anglais

Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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