Firas El-Ayoubi thought his dream of becoming a police officer was a distant memory.

He had turned 40, had three sons under 10 years of age and was well-established as a supervisor at a local manufacturing plant. But when a relative who was the same age got hired as a firefighter “he encouraged me to give it another try.”

“I thoroughly enjoyed what I was doing but policing was always in the back of my mind so I wanted to take another shot,” El-Ayoubi explains. “I spoke to my wife and she was very supportive.”

He was hired just over a year ago. For El-Ayoubi, realizing his long-time dream was a way to honour his grandfather, a police captain in their home country of Lebanon who El-Ayoubi calls his childhood hero.

But it was also a way to thank the community for taking in and nurturing a refugee family more than 30 years ago. “Canada, and specifically Guelph, gave us an opportunity to grow and prosper which would have been very difficult if we were still back home. I wanted to give back and say thank you to the community that gave us so much.”Firas El-Ayoubi Behind the Badge

El-Ayoubi was born in Australia. The family then lived in Saudi Arabia for six years before moving back to their home country of Lebanon, but soon fled the ongoing civil war and relocated to Canada.

“I remember at six or seven when we were still in Lebanon waking up in the middle of the night to shelling going on and we would all have to run into the hallway to hide,” he recalls.

El-Ayoubi says it was difficult settling in a new country as a Muslim child who spoke no English, and largely credits Guelph Police Service school resource officers and now-retired Constable Attila Korga with easing the transition. “I can still remember Officer Attila sitting down with me and being so patient when I was having trouble communicating.”

“It was a tremendous struggle,” El-Ayoubi remembers of those days, “but I take that with me now. When I’m interacting with someone who doesn’t speak English or has trouble communicating, I remember what that was like for me.”

He speaks fluent Arabic, which has already come in handy several times. During a recent domestic dispute, for example, a female was having difficulty explaining what happened. But when it was determined she spoke Arabic, El-Ayoubi was called to the scene to assist with translating and communicating information.

“It was nice to be able to assist and to demonstrate to this couple there is an officer who understands their background and is able to communicate in their own language. They were very appreciative.”

When he is not working, El-Ayoubi regularly volunteers with the Muslim Society of Guelph and KidsAbility, which has a special place in his heart as one of his sons has autism.

He understands his background might put some spotlight on him “but I welcome that because it gives me an opportunity to talk about my background and my culture and my religion.”

“Maybe I can encourage others with a similar background to pursue a career in policing because it is just so rewarding.”


Behind the Badge is a monthly series of profiles of Guelph Police Service members