Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen, visited his former school, Hamilton’s Sir John A. Macdonald high school, on Friday. The minister is seen here laughing with SJAM students Yahaya Mohamed, left, and Cameron Prosic as he recounts some of his early days in Hamilton. – Cathie Coward , The Hamilton Spectator
Federal immigration and refugee minister Ahmed Hussen landed in Canada from Somalia 26 years ago and found his feet at Sir John A. Macdonald high school running on the track team. He returned to the school Friday for the first time since graduating.
It is not yet the end of the school year, and the tall and eloquent graduate with the big smile is not valedictorian, but Ahmed Hussen did create that kind of inspiring, bittersweet vibe at Sir John A. Macdonald high school.
It was 23 years ago that Hussen, a refugee of civil war in Somalia, last set foot in the school at York Boulevard and Bay Street North — “SJAM” as students and teachers call it.
He rose to become Canada’s Minister for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship in 2017.Ads By Google“The refugee became the minister of refugees,” he said in a speech in the auditorium that held the rapt attention of hundreds of students, even on a Friday afternoon with the sun shining outside.
He made it back to once more stride through the halls at SJAM just in time, because the school closes its doors for good in just over a month.
“This school is special, and the spirit is still here, it has not changed,” he told the students. “We will carry our experiences here forever and ever.”
The school in the core with a diverse student population has long been a place of fresh starts and dreams: “The school with a heart in the heart of the city,” said principal Barry Smith — himself a graduate.
Hussen, who is 42, began his Canadian odyssey at the school with an especially steep hill to climb.
He was born in 1976 in Mogadishu on the east coast of Africa, the youngest of six children.
In 1991, at the start of the civil war in Somalia, Hussen’s family fled to a refugee camp in Kenya.
In February 1993 his parents flew him, alone, to Canada, with nothing to his name but a duffel bag and a change of clothes.
He was 16 and lived with a cousin in Hamilton who was attending Mohawk College.
Hussen lived in social housing at 95 Hess St. and in the fall of 1993 began attending the school named after Canada’s most famous Scottish immi