A man who took refuge in an Ottawa church nearly a decade ago to avoid deportation has opened his own restaurant in the city's west end.

Samsu Mia took sanctuary at the First Unitarian Church in 2003 fearing for his life after he criticized a government official in his home country of Bangladesh.

The church gave him refuge for 18 months until he was granted a ministerial permit to stay in Canada in 2004.

He catered luncheons in the church during that time and afterwards, he worked as a cook at local eateries while saving money for his eventual dream. 


Samsu Mia has opened a new restaurant in the former building of a KFC outlet near the intersection of Woodroffe Avenue and Richmond Road. (Google Streetview)

"Now my own business ... 20 years I work in other restaurants ... now my restaurant," said Mia from his new establishment, Mia's Indian Cuisine, located at the site of a converted Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet.

"I happy ... very, very happy," he said.

Father, son team up for new restaurant

He opened the restaurant with a partner, his eldest son Mostafa, a graduate of Algonquin College's hospitality program.

Mostafa said Unitarian church members helped the family learn English and still offer constant support.

"They help us to set up outside, they help us buy things like stoves and helped us advertise," he said, "People from church they helped us a lot."

Christine McDonald, a member of the church's sanctuary group, called helping the family a "great joy in my life".

McDonald said Mia's children realize his passion is cooking.

"It's been one of their big dreams because they love their father very much and they realize all the sacrifices he's made for them," she said.