As a President of Bangladesh Canada Friendship Society, Ahsan Rizvi Chowdhury aims to support new immigrants in settling, integrating, and prospering as productive members of the diverse Canadian Family. He is the first South Asian Immigrant in North America who became the Chief Engineer at a government entity. He is a member of many expert technical committees of bridge engineering in Canada and the USA.
Also, he is passionate about long-span cable-supported bridges, its design, inspection, complex retrofit, and maintenance works. Mr. Ahsan effectively utilizes human, technical, and equipment resources, consultants, and contractors to achieve Halifax Harbour Bridges’s objectives for infrastructure health and improvements, administration of policies and procedures, and meeting future needs for expanded infrastructure to provide safe traffic movement and ongoing development.
Mr. Ahsan is responsible for planning, preparing, implementing, and executing capital improvement objectives and projects, which normally entail about ten major projects each year and a typical annual budget of $20M to $25M. However, the journey was not smooth. His story will take a thought that hard work, belief, confidence always pay off. Hence, let’s read to find out his story:
The InCAP: Mr. Ahsan Rizvi Chowdhury, we are eager to know your career peregrination.
Ahsan Rizvi Chowdhury: Over 22 years of multi-disciplinary engineering experience in research, design, analysis, investigations, construction, project management, and contract administration, I came to Canada as a Professional Engineer/landed immigrant in 2007 after ten years of engineering experience in planning, designing, and maintaining high-profile infrastructures in Bangladesh. I received the Master of Engineering degree from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in 2009 and started a bridge engineering career with HHB in 2010.
As an expert on the long-span cable-supported Bridge, I travel worldwide to speak about the inspection, evaluation, and maintenance techniques of signature bridge structures. In addition, I am the author and peer reviewer of many technical papers and publications.
As Bangladesh Canada Friendship Society (BCFS) has been working relentlessly to help newcomers and their associated matters, we would like to know the upcoming projects of BCFS for the people of Bangladesh? And how do you plan to execute it?
Project Safe Landing is a flagship initiative of BCFS and is considered a helpline for new immigrants in Nova Scotia. It aims to support new immigrants in settling, integrating, and prospering as productive members of the diverse Canadian Family. BCFS offers Pre-Flight Information Session, Landing Assistance, Airport Pick-up, Temporary Accommodations, and many other logistics to help them settle and grow in Canada (for more details, please visit Safe Landing – Bangladesh Canada Friendship Society (bcfsociety.ca).
BCFS operates many programs and events to promote Bangladesh and Bangladeshi communities in Canada:
Women Health & Wellness Program is an initiative towards the health and wellness of our female members with events such as free workshops on health and wellness and sports activities. We have already partnered with the Canada Games Centre to provide free-of-cost weekly programs for our female members.
Cultural Diversity Events will showcase equity, diversity, tolerance, and justice and a society free from all forms of discrimination. Our diversity events will embrace persons from all walks of life in Nova Scotia by providing culturally rich and stimulating programs geared towards learning, discovery, entertainment, and healthy living.
Bangladesh Day celebrates Bangladesh’s heritage and the Bengali New Year. A whole-day program features many traditions of Bangladeshi Culture, Food, Arts & Crafts, Dance, and Musical Events. The event (Bangla Bazar/stores and cultural program) is open to all Nova Scotians.
Youth and Children Wellness Programs focus on improving the social and emotional well-being of the youth and children. The program aims to enhance analytical and communication skills and promote teamwork. BCFS operates Kids Club (Math & Coding, Physical activities & Training, Cultural Diversity) under this program, which significantly impacts the youth and children’s social and emotional well-being.
Bangladesh Festival, the first of its kind in Nova Scotia and Canada, is a celebration of Bangladeshi Culture, Art, Food, Clothing, Dance, and many more traditions, which represent the true colors of Bangladesh and Bangladeshi Canadians. The key activities of the Bangladesh Festival will include live performances by local and national artists displaying Bangladeshi arts and culture and 25 stalls by budding local entrepreneurs featuring traditional South Asian food, clothing, jewelry, arts, books, and handicrafts. Additionally, there will be live entertainment arrangements for kids, including a bouncy castle and clown show. A signature event piece will be an open concert featuring local and national artists of Bangladeshi and other origins from all over Canada, highlighting their artistic talents in singing and dancing.
The primary goal of the Bangladesh Festival is to provide a positive forum for all Nova Scotians to come together and experience the rich cultural heritage of South Asia and how such a potpourri of diversity enriches the cosmopolitan mosaic of Canada. By exhibiting the core cultural values and symbols of our community and organization, the event hopes to provide an inspiring and inclusive environment for various communities to learn from and appreciate each other’s heritage. Our commitment to equity, diversity, tolerance, justice and a society free from all forms of discrimination will be evident in all aspects of the organization of this event.
We know that BCFS encourages initiatives for improving the friendship of both countries. What are the core factors you are focusing on at present?
We have been working with the Government to build one Nova Scotia for all and focusing on:
- Equity Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)
- Retention plan for new immigrants and international students
- Provide inputs on immigration policy that would allow skills and no-skills workers from Bangladesh to immigrate to Nova Scotia
- Trade partnership between Bangladesh and the Province of Nova Scotia
- Barrier-free job market for Bangladeshi workforce in Nova Scotia
Since the organization aims to help, support, and embrace new immigrants and the less fortunate, Bangladeshi public interest has been seen in immigrating to Canada in the past five years. But, the number is deficient. What would be your suggestion concerning it?
I understand that one of the biggest challenges for Bangladeshi workers to immigrate to Canada (skilled or non-skilled) is the equivalency of experience and certifications that meet Canadian standards. Unfortunately, most tradespeople (welders, painters, masonry laborers, nursing, patient attendants, etc.) have no certificate from an accredited institute in Canada.
One option is to consider enhancing the curriculum and certification programs of the Bangladesh Vocational/Trade institute that meet Canadian standards, so they can qualify to apply for immigration. Significant demands and immigration categories are available where the Bangladeshi workforce does not qualify due to a lack of certifications.
The second option is that we can try to convince the Canadian or Provincial Government to bring non-skilled (have experience but no certifications) workers from Bangladesh and train/certify them before they enter the local job market. We have already started the dialog with the Immigration Minister of the Nova Scotia Government.
This could be the most common question from prospective students: Will Bangladesh be included in the Student Direct Stream (SDS) program? If it is implemented, there would be a significant number of Bangladeshi students going; how will BCFS support them?
BCFS has a strong relationship with the Government and Universities in Nova Scotia. We would like to know more details about this SDS program to see how we can work as an advocate for Bangladesh students.
International students play a significant role in Nova Scotia’s Economy; I understand that every year, thousands of international students come to Nova Scotia for undergraduate and graduates program in Dalhousie, Saint Mary’s, Mount Saint Vincent, Cape Breton, and other universities in Nova Scotia.
Mr. Ahsan, you’re also the Chief Engineer of a government entity in Canada. Hence, we are keen to know the significant differences between Bangladesh and Canada’s infrastructural development systems.
I always feel fortunate that I got the opportunity to see the engineering and workplace culture on both sides of the World-developing Vs. Developed countries. In my first exposure to the Canadian workplace environment, one thing strikes my attention: workplace safety culture- where safety is the number one priority for any workplace and construction projects. Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) Act plays a significant role in workplace safety where owner, contractor, and employee’s roles, responsibilities, and liabilities are well defined.
OH&S is built on four fundamental pillars- right to refuse, right to know, right to participate, and an internal responsibility system (IRS) where everyone has direct responsibility for health and safety as an essential part of their work. No matter where or who the person is in the organization, they can address safety in a way that fits with what they do. Every person takes the initiative to improve health and safety on an ongoing basis.
Each province has a department of Labour and Advanced Education body who is responsible for delivering effective and efficient regulatory management for the protection of health and safety.
The Workers’ Compensation Act (the “Act”) provides the legal framework for administering the WCB’s prevention, return to work, assessment, and compensation programs. In addition, the regulations made under the Act give more guidance on applying the requirements in the Act. Workers’ compensation legislation is complemented by the Occupational Health and Safety Act and regulations, which establish workplace health and safety standards and are administered by the Occupational Health and Safety Division.
Workplace injury and insurance coverage are critical for Canadian workers-The Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia (WCB) is the provider of workplace injury insurance. They inform and inspire Nova Scotians to prevent workplace injury, but when it occurs, we support those whose lives it touches, fostering a timely and safe return to work. We also provide caring, compassionate support in the wake of workplace tragedy.
I strongly believe Bangladesh has a lot to learn and adopt standards and best practices from a developed country like Canada to reduce the risk of workplace injury and build a strong safety culture that will attract responsible foreign investors to invest in infrastructure.
Another area where I see a significant difference between developing and developed countries is how they plan, design, build and maintain their infrastructures- quality is the number one priority for all aspects of this process. For example, we design and build a critical structure like Bridge for indefinite service life. The general design life for bridges is 75-100 years, but the structure’s service life can be extended for many years by having an adequate preventive maintenance program and risk-based bridge asset management plan.
Maintenance is an integral part of bridge management to ensure the safety and durability of bridges cost-effectively. USA and Canada invest significant money in research and development (R&D) to enhance and improve analysis, design, inspection, investigation, and maintenance techniques and standards. In general North American Codes, Standards and Manuals are available in the public domain that can be reviewed and adapted as appropriate by Bangladesh engineers and policy-makers.
How can Bangladesh attract foreign investors on infrastructural developments in Bangladesh?
I think Canadian investors will consider the following items before investing on a foreign country like Bangladesh:
- No bribes
- Law and enforcement
- Health and Safety Act and regulations -worker’s safety and compensation
- Social security
- Political Stability
- Investment-friendly infrastructures and regulations
- Special import and export taxes for foreign investors
- Trustworthy local partners
- Government supports
Government should take a positive initiative to reach and showcase our potential in compliance with the above requirements.
We are attentive to know the influence or inspiration that shaped you and contributed to becoming the person you are today?
I learned from my father, who told me: “There are only two ways of life: you can be a leader or follower, but for you, it’s the first one because you were born as a leader- I dream many people will one day follow you and your success.”
I came to Canada as a Professional Engineer/landed immigrant in 2007 after ten years of engineering experience in planning, designing, and maintaining high-profile infrastructures in Bangladesh. I am the first Asian Immigrant in North America and now the Chief Engineer at a government entity Halifax Harbour Bridges (HHB), Nova Scotia, Canada.
After passing my degree from the then Bangladesh Institute of Technology (BIT) in 1998, it was a big challenge for me to develop my professional career in the small city of Khulna. So I established the first full-service engineering firm in Khulna- Jomeen Associates and Engineers. But at that time, it was a huge challenge to run an engineering firm in a small town where the building owners did not see the value of engineering design and building safety but relied on personal experience and unskilled labor (Raj Mistri).
In 2003, I established the first water treatment plant for the pure bottle water business in Khulna and extended the brand “Euro” nationwide. After having a successful engineering profession and being an entrepreneur with many significant achievements, I realized my skills and talent could be utilized in the bigger world.
As per my thinking to a new dimension, I migrated to Canada as a small man with a big dream in 2007. The journey from the small city of Khulna, Bangladesh, to Halifax, Canada was not smooth as when I first came to Canada; I had nothing but a wife, three years old daughter, and three bags of winter clothes.
We again started our life from scratch. My wife and I decided not to bring any money from Bangladesh to live in Canada, even though we could if we wanted. But we went back to university again to get Canadian education, learn codes and engineering standards to coop with the local workforce, work part-time as a busboy in an Indian restaurant and start our new life in Montreal with a minimal income. We did not have enough money to buy MacDonald’s food for my four years old daughter that she loved to get. It was so hard to live a poor life in Canada when we had money in my motherland, where we lived as a wealthy family. But we did not break our promises and did not bring any money from my country to a rich country to live a better life.
Finally, I received a Master’s degree in engineering from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, and started my bridge engineering career with HHB in 2010.
Today what we have, the upper class in Canada, we earned it here, and it was only possible for our determination and dedication to the best. I believe great things never come from comfort zones-you have to work hard to achieve. You need to push yourself hard because no one else will do it for you. Success doesn’t just find you; you must go out and get it.
Mr. Ahsan, you’ve observed the world with your highly talented mind. You’re an idol to many people. Please Say something to them.
Having two lives, two careers, and personal and professional achievements, I learn, “nothing is impossible -Your limitation—it’s only your imagination, so dream big-go for big -no one can resist you from success.”
Highlights of Achievements, Merits, and Honor
- Member, Institute of Engineers Bangladesh, IEB-16771
- P. Eng., Engineers Nova Scotia, (APENS).
- P. Eng., Professional Engineers of Ontario (PEO),
- Member, Canadian Society of Civil Engineering, Registration –CSCE
- Member, American Society of Civil Engineers-ASCE
- Primer on Bridge Load Testing
- Corrosion Protection of a Halifax Harbour Bridge
- Structural Monitoring
- McDonald Bridge Approach Spans Bearing Investigation And Replacement: Challenges And Issues
- MACKAY Bridge Expansion Joints, Deck Replacements, And Fatigue Life Investigation
- MACKAY Suspension Bridge Hanger Inspection And Replacements: Challenges And Issues
- Angus L. Macdonald Bridge Concrete Assessment and Remediation for an Extended Service Life of 75 Years
- BOOK- Inspection, Evaluation and Maintenance of Suspension Bridges Case Studies
- MacKay Suspension Bridge Hanger Replacement and Main Cable Inspection
- World Single Largest Mangrove Forest- ‘Sundarban’: A Hunt for Sustainability
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