The life story of this man of many talents, who immigrated to Canada in 1972, was relayed over a traditional meal of fish, fasolia beans and kofta kebabs at the family home in Quebec City. Born in Janzur, Lybia in 1950, Regeb grew up in a family of merchants. Attending school until the age of 17, he learned woodworking as a teenager in a workshop owned by an Italian carpenter. He also launched his own woodworking company at that age, which he ran until emigrating abroad. Surrounded by British and Italian people, he was quick to learn both languages. On September 1, 1969, he witnessed the coup d’état by General Gaddafi. The young entrepreneur remembers being assaulted by soldiers during a protest. In an authoritarian regime, the rules change. Wanting to live a free life and searching for new challenges, he obtained a visa to visit Canada. A Tunisian acquaintance lived in Quebec City, so Regeb set sail for the old capital. A few weeks after arriving he already had a job at the Napoli Restaurant. He did it all: dishwasher, host and finally manager. For over ten years, his professional life was divided between the restaurant business and construction work. The construction strike of 1982 set him on an adventurous course—he worked as a deckhand on the Great Lakes “lakers,” and then opened his own Mediterranean restaurant in Matane with his spouse Jacqueline.
In 1984, curiosity and a desire to discover the country sent the couple off on a year-long road trip from Saint-Jean to Newfoundland and Labrador and Victoria on the West Coast. This new Canadian experience was an eye-opener for Regeb. It helped crystallize his view of our society’s values. For people from various countries seeking democracy and political and economic stability, Canada is an oasis. Its multicultural population, quality of life, culture of peaceful relationships and respect of individual and religious freedoms is its greatest strength, he explains. While Regeb realizes that separatist and federalist allegiances in the pre-referendum years of 1980 and 1995 were a source of conflict for families, the Quebec people are nevertheless peaceful and respectful of others. However, he must point out there was stigmatization of certain Arab groups fed by the events of September 11 in the United States. This father, who invested so much of himself in the academic and social development of his three boys, believes that Quebecers show an openness to the rest of the world and have a desire to cultivate a spirit of co-existence. He fondly remembers his experience organizing ethnic meals for Mont St-Sacrament high school, and that he was once the city’s only Muslim Santa Claus! Today, he proudly follows the careers of his sons, Ralph, a journalist, Jeffrey, a graduate student and blogger and Kevin, a sommelier.