From refugee to union leader: Ontario Regional Director Samia Hashi’s story

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Women speaking at a podium

Originally from Eritrea, a country in Northeast Africa that borders the Red Sea, Unifor Ontario Regional Director, Samia Hashi, and her family immigrated to Canada from Saudi Arabia when she was just 6 years old.

Samia Hashi with her mom and siblings.
Samia Hashi with her mom and siblings.

“My family and I were welcomed to Canada with open arms—and for that, we are forever grateful,” said Hashi. “My mother made the brave choice to leave not one, but two countries in pursuit of a better life for me and my two brothers. First, she left Eritrea, war-torn at the time, and immigrated to Saudi Arabia, where she had me, and then we moved from there to Canada. She left everything behind—friends, family, material possessions—in pursuit of a better life for her children.”

Samia’s story rings all too true today as climate change and global conflict have led to a sharp increase in the number of individuals fleeing persecution, violence, and human rights violations in their home countries. 

By the end of 2022, more than 100 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes—with approximately 41% under the age of 18. 

Samia Hashi attends Unifor’s Black History Month event in Toronto with her brother, niece, and nephew.
Samia Hashi attends Unifor’s Black History Month event in Toronto with her brother, niece, and nephew.

“Working alongside amazing trade unionists is my way of giving back to the people who’ve made my life possible here in Canada,” continued Hashi. “Building our union means leaving no worker behind, no matter where they come from, and ensuring that every single working person is treated with dignity and respect.”

Currently in Canada, systemic issues including workplace exploitation, abuse, and wage theft, coupled with workers’ fear of reprisal or deportation, make addressing issues impacting migrant workers all the more challenging.

“Many newcomers to Canada are forced into low-wage, highly precarious jobs where employers often take advantage of this vulnerable workforce,” said Hashi. “Together we must continue to fight hard to ensure that all newcomers to Canada have the support and resources they need to thrive and meaningfully participate in their workplaces and communities.”

Hashi and her family were supported by Romero House—a charitable organization that offers transitional housing and immigration and settlement support to newcomers—upon their arrival to Canada. Romero House was one of six organizations Unifor provided a $100,000 grant as part of the union’s Social Justice Fund 10th anniversary in December 2023. The funds will help to build transitional housing units for refugee families settling in Toronto.

Three women holding a cheque
Samia Hashi presenting a Unifor SJF donation cheque to the Romero House.

World Refugee Day 2024

Each year on June 20, Unifor observes World Refugee Day, a day to raise awareness and fight for the rights of refugees across the globe. 

Read Unifor’s full statement for World Refugee Day here.

Samia Hashi with her mom and aunt.
Samia Hashi with her mom and aunt.

Media Contact

Paul Whyte