U of L alum sailing with Canada C3 voyage to celebrate Canadian diversity

When Ahmed Saffar (BMgt ’15) and his wife emigrated from Dubai, they chose Canada as their new home.

“We didn’t regret that decision at all,” says Saffar. “We came to Canada in 2007 and we’ve been building our family ever since. We’ve been trying to survive and flourish in this great country.”

Based in Calgary, Saffar and his wife are the parents of two sons aged eight and 13. He says their experience in Canada has been largely a good one, but he admits that he and his children sometimes hear negative comments.

“We try to stay positive and work toward the idea that Canada is a country for everyone, not only for certain people,” he says.

That inclusive attitude and a desire to learn more about Canada led him to apply to participate in the Canada C3 initiative, a 150-day sailing expedition around Canada’s three coasts from Toronto to Victoria via the Northwest Passage.

Saffar first heard about the journey on the radio and went online to check it out. Applicants were asked to indicate their community involvements and he shared his beliefs about diversity, inclusion and his efforts to help newcomers adjust to life in Canada by volunteering for the Calgary Immigration Society. Earlier this year, he learned he was one of 200 people out of 5,000 applicants chosen to participate. He will join the Canada C3 voyage for 10 days on its 15th and final leg.

“It was a great surprise for me,” says Saffar. “I’m a new Canadian and I want to learn about the aspects of the coastal communities from coast to coast to coast in Canada and learn about the Indigenous people and their culture.”

Saffar departs for Campbell River on Thursday, Oct. 19 where he’ll board the MV Polar Prince, a Canadian-flagged research icebreaker. The 15th leg goes from Campbell River through the Georgia Strait and Gulf Islands to Victoria. The expedition will meet with diverse communities along the way, from artist and musician havens to First Nations communities and fishing towns. The Polar Prince will also stop at Vancouver before sailing to Victoria.

“The themes of the Canada C3 trip are diversity and inclusion, reconciliation, youth engagement and environment, so all of our activities will be around those themes,” says Saffar. “We will be interacting with Indigenous communities in those areas we visit to understand their struggles and also try to communicate the message of these communities all around Canada.”

Participants will also learn about the diversity of their environment and different living styles among Canada’s peoples.

Canada C3 is an initiative of the Students on Ice Foundation (SOI) and a Signature Project for Canada’s 150th Anniversary of Confederation. SOI, a leader in polar education and youth engagement, has undertaken more than 30 educational expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic since 2000. Geoff Green, SOI founder and president, is the expedition leader for the Canada C3 voyage, which is designed to give Canadians new perspectives and to spark new ideas on how to build a better Canada. People can follow the Canada C3 journey online.

Born in Baghdad, Iraq, Saffar, who earned a degree in computer science in the Middle East, worked in Abu Dhabi and Dubai before coming to Canada. A few years after settling in Canada, Saffar decided to change his career to supply chain management and that led him to the U of L’s Calgary campus.

“It was the most wonderful experience that I had in Canada since moving here, but I think now the Canada C3 will be the highest in the rank,” Saffar says. “I enjoyed studying at the University here. It opened my eyes to many aspects of Canada’s educational and cultural background and I got to know the communities here in Calgary. It was a great experience.”

Saffar currently works for the City of Airdrie.