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Kabir Hosein is a sports enthusiast and practitioner who believes that sports and physical activity can connect different cultures around the world to allow people to express themselves regardless of language, customs, or lifestyle. For him, the field, the track, the playground, and the turf are unique spaces for uniting those of diverse backgrounds, allowing people to learn and to understand this new place he and his family now call home—Victoria B.C., Canada.
Interview by Kareece Whittle-Brown.



Where are you from?

I am originally from the twin island republic of Trinidad and Tobago, which is the southernmost Caribbean island within the chain of islands. The country gained its independence in 1962, and we have a population of approximately 1.4 million. We enjoy a diverse mix of ethnicities, with the latest influence being the Chinese and Japanese within the last couple decades.

I was born and raised in a town called Diego Martin, which is northwest of the island and located just outside the capital of Port of Spain. Diego Martin was supposedly one of Christopher Columbus’s brothers, from whom the town got its name.

What is your first language, and do you speak any other languages?

English is my first language, and I understand bits and pieces of Spanish and French. There is a common dialect spoken across all the Caribbean territories called Patois, which I can understand a bit of. It is commonly spoken by the older generation, so when my grandmother is angry, what she speaks is Patois.

What is your job or training and your background in the industry?

I am the senior operation manager at Sport for Life. In my role, I oversee finance, human resources, and compliance and information technology. Last year, we developed a portfolio dedicated to engaging newcomers in sport and physical activity. This is a project that I have been spearheading, and it has grown so fast that it is now a complete unit in the Sport for Life organization.

Coming out of university, I studied business management with a minor in economics; however, because of my passion, I was always involved in sports, and always stayed connected in some way. I was a high-performance junior athlete, did some recreational sports, then did a bit of coaching and eventually transitioned into administration. I was climbing the volunteer ladder while holding down a full-time job. I was a business owner for a number of years, and while doing well financially, my family life was unbalanced. I often left for work early in the morning with kids crying, and I would come home late at night to the same scenario.

Then I made the life-changing decision to choose a different path and transition into educating myself around sports administration and coaching while holding down a corporate job as a manager within the insurance industry. Through some of the connections I made in sports, I was able to land the position of CEO for the Trinidad and Tobago Athletics Federation. I also sat on a number of national boards that were within the sporting sector, so I was juggling many roles: full-time employee and CEO, as well as sitting on boards of organizations directly involved in sports.



What was your social life like in your home country?

Both my wife and I have huge families, and we both are from sporting backgrounds, so we have always had lots of friends and our social circle was quite large. We also created a great family atmosphere. Our family gatherings were easily close to one hundred people. We always had friends and family over at our house. We had a large house in Trinidad, so Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays were almost like a mini-party. There was always food, drink, and music. Community life and safety was never a huge concern where I grew up and lived. It is quite common for Caribbean people to “lyme” (hang out) after work. With my job, I had to do a significant amount of networking, so most evenings I was out meeting people and lyming, which served two purposes: growing my network, and providing a boost to my mental health after a long, stressful day.

Tell us about your family, and if family life here is different from family life in Trinidad.

My wife is Kecia, and we have four children: the eldest is Kai, age twelve; then Kardian, seven; Kameelah, four; and Kadira turned three years old just a few months ago.

Life here is definitely different than it is in Trinidad. For starters, there is always your extended family around or close by. Your neighbour is considered your family, so a sister, cousin, or aunt neighbour is always baking, cooking, and bringing over a dish of some sort. The support network we had was strong; there was always someone able to assist with picking up kids, dropping them off, watching them—there was always someone available to fill in when needed. In Victoria, it’s two adults with four kids! Coupled with a pandemic with limited social interactions as a family, we haven’t been able to create the sense of community where we live or within the Caribbean diaspora.



What were some of the factors that influenced your decision to move? And why did you choose Victoria?

For us, it was primarily career advancement, but crime had also become a concern in Trinidad and Tobago, which was also a major consideration.

For both myself and my wife, we were both in senior roles in our organizations; to progress any further, we would possibly have taken a path into politics, which was never an intended part of my journey. This caused us to start looking outside of Trinidad and the Caribbean for alternative opportunities. We both had international experience with our studies, through sports and in some of our professional development opportunities.We started tapping back into some of those markets, and we were successful.

Through field hockey, my wife had visited Vancouver on two occasions, once as a player and the other as an umpire. On both those occasions, the organizers arranged to take the travel contingent by ferry over to Victoria to show what B.C. was like.

When I reached out to the universe in search of a job I got several offers, one of which would require us to reside in Victoria. Before I even did the interview, Kecia proclaimed, “That’s the one. That’s where we are going to spend the rest of our lives.”

Can you remember the date that you arrived in Canada, and how it felt to be here?

I certainly remember it very well: it was Thursday, April 18, 2019. I came first to get settled and prepare for my family to come afterwards, so I travelled alone that first trip.

I arrived in Victoria late at night, and the very next day I was in the office. Coincidentally, there were some delegates from Egypt visiting the office, and because of my Islamic connections I was asked to come in and assist with the conversations. I vividly remember that first week in Victoria—the difference in the smell of the air, the difference in temperature. It was April and I was freezing. I had on four or five layers of clothes.

There was also a mix of emotions, and more questions in my head than I knew the answers to. I constantly asked myself, Did I make the right choice? I knew where I was, and I knew why I came, but I was still questioning whether we had made the right decision because it certainly didn’t look, feel, smell, or even taste like what I was used to. The differences were vast. So I started networking, figuring things out on my own. I developed new relationships, and I explored and tried to understand Victoria, to see if I could understand Canada. That I am still working at.

What was it like for the children when they arrived later?

It was sheer excitement for the children. We had planned a family vacation months before, so we all had a wonderful time in Florida—and then my two eldest children and my mother-in-law returned to Canada with me. We flew into Vancouver and took the ferry over to Victoria. That sailing turned out to be an experience of a lifetime for them because, from the ferry, we saw a whale and her calf.

The excitement was memorable—but that didn’t last long when the reality hit that they would not have their mother, grandparents, or their friends here.



How do you maintain connection to your culture?

We are a very spiritual family; our religious upbringing and principles are something we hold dear and try to build on. We also utilize the technology we have to keep our extended family connection close. We telephone and video call regularly, sometimes several times a day, with family and friends.

What has been the hardest thing for you here?

The hardest thing for me individually is getting people to understand my identity. I have had experiences here where my country of origin was questioned after I told them where I was from because I didn’t fit their image of what a Trinidadian or Caribbean person should look like, or how they should speak or act. My family and I have experienced racism on account of our skin colour and our faith, through Islamophobia, and we have had to deal with that as a family.

I aspire to raise awareness of such cultural sensitivities, and understanding of insensitivities, in Victoria. I intend to do this in small steps as I connect with my community in Victoria; I know it’s going to be a long journey.

What is it like being a minority and the realities that come with that?

The best way I can articulate this is to say that people need to unlearn some of what we think we know. So, again, in the areas I can influence—through education, networking, and building partnerships—I am putting myself out there and interacting with various groups to change the narrative. Then I sit back and reflect on how I can actively work through some of the discrimination that exists here.

The Jamaican cricketer Micheal Holding always uses this quote: “History is written by the conquerors, not the conquered.” That is something I have taken on as a personal motto within the areas that I can influence, in my own way, which is through sports and physical activity.

What is one thing that you would like someone to know about Trinidad?

I would speak to the number of accomplishments as a country that Trinidad has made and how we have achieved those accomplishments. In the sporting realm at one point in time, we were the smallest country to qualify for the football World Cup. In arts and culture, we have had numerous Nobel Prize winners. We have leaders that sit in positions of authority in almost every major sector worldwide, sitting at the helm of power and making major decisions that impact the world in a positive way. So, if I had some sort of superpower, I would wish to communicate some of those achievements to the world on behalf of Trinidad and the Caribbean.

Have you had professional challenges here, and if so, what strategies have you used to overcome them?

I would speak to two challenges professionally: Firstly, the challenges of a temporary foreign worker and the restrictions that apply. The other one, which has been my greatest challenge, would be the mental shift I have had to make from an executive-level strategic leader to the execution level. I have had to change my thinking and approach from governance and strategy to implementation.

As time passes, however, and my reputation continues to be built, more and more I can add value to the executive-level management.

What is one thing you wish you knew before moving to Canada?

I would say the actual cost of living here and how to navigate the education system. When investigating the cost of living before moving, the internet can only take you so far. As parents coming from a Caribbean English results-oriented system that is primarily textbook driven, we have not yet made the adjustments to the new and different teaching and learning styles [in the Canadian system].

What differences do you see for your family in Canada five years from now?

I would predict that our children would be more worldly. Learning is different in this school district; I can only speak for this district as this is what I have experienced. Real-world team dynamics from interacting with different cultures at an early age is developed in a way they may not have in Trinidad and Tobago.

What is something you find strange, funny, or challenging about Canadian culture?

I see that everyone is so calm. It is funny for us when we come across those situations, and it has really helped us to calm down.

What’s your favourite thing to do in Victoria?

Exploring the flora and fauna, lakes, splash parks, and playgrounds. There are so many things to do for families, which we didn’t have back home. Every weekend we are able to do something; we can always see and possibly explore a new place.

What advice would you give to someone about to immigrate to Canada?

Take the leap, and grasp the opportunity that has presented itself. The journey will be challenging, but it will pay off. •