Daniele Henkel decided she had to flee Algeria because she felt her children were no longer safe.
“Islamists were starting to attack girls in the street,” she says. “I had to think about my daughters, so I decided to move to Canada.”
This was back in 1990, and Algeria was about to descend into more than a decade of civil war between a secular government and various Islamist groups.
Morocco-born Daniele was 34 at the time, and she and her Algerian husband lived a comfortable life with their four children. She worked as a political and economic adviser for the US consulate in the coastal city of Oran, while he was engineer.
But they gave up everything, almost overnigh
The family arrived penniless in the city of Montreal in the middle of a bitterly cold Canadian winter, a snowstorm in full swing.
“Before moving, the immigration department of Canada had told us that my husband and I would easily find work,” says Daniele. “In reality, things turned out to be very different.”
While her husband Ahmad couldn’t secure any work in his field, Daniele spent seven years scraping a living earning 75% less than she had done in Algeria. She did everything from working as a secretary, to selling lunchboxes, to trying her hand with an estate agents firm.
Daniele says she felt “rejected and worthless”, but her life was to transform again for the better in 1997 when she decided to start her own business selling health and beauty products. She says she wanted to be her own boss because she was “tired of being exploited”.
Her eponymous company has gone on to make her a multi-millionaire, and, today the 60-year-old is one of the best-known business leaders in the French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec.