Louis Coutinho’s path in Nova Scotia has led him from pushing grocery carts through the snow, to becoming Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for the Town of Windsor and a very active and committed volunteer. Louis, who is a Portuguese-East Indian, was raised in Uganda. The family moved to the capital, Kampala, after the death of his father, a tea businessman, when Louis was nine. President Idi Amin’s reign of terror drove Louis, then 19, his mother and three younger brothers to Canada in 1972. Along with thousands of refugees, they arrived in Montreal and were housed at a military barracks at Pointe Longue where there was information about the provinces. “No one was at the booths for the Atlantic Provinces. Let’s go there, I told my mother.”
Right away they felt they made the right decision. “The church groups, IODE and Salvation Army were all tripping over each other to be helpful to us.” The first week he found a job at a grocery store. “It was a bit of a shock here for us. But people see you with the wrong footwear in the snow and they’d help you.” An Immigration staff member called the family daily and they were given a loan. “We wanted to get jobs as soon as possible to pay it back. “ While his mother worked as a dish washer and his brothers went to school, Louis found a second job managing apartment buildings. He soon started a science program at Dalhousie University. He was capable academically, as he had studied in the British system, but found it socially difficult. It was impossible to keep a job and study, so he left university until later in life.
Louis became a traffic analyst with the City of Halifax and rose through the ranks in the Halifax Regional Municipality– with help from mentors – to become Director of Human Resources. He also returned to Dalhousie to pursue his Master of Public Administration studies. In 2006 he became Windsor’s CAO. He has served on provincial committees including as co-chair of a Provincial Fiscal Review. His community work has included GYRO Club vice-president, Rotary Club president, King’s-Edgehill School board member, Glooscap First Nation Economic Development Committee member and Board Director of the Windsor Area Education Fund Association. Most recently, Louis was elected as a board member to the Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators (CAMA) for Nova Scotia and PEI. “We contribute any way we can. I am proud to be part of the Windsor community. I even got into curling!” Louis’ wife works in banking, as do their two sons. They have two grandchildren – twin boys.
It was challenging for Louis’ mother to settle in Canada, but she worked at CanPlan and Sears and was a Red Cross volunteer for 35 years. One brother manages a dairy company in Hamilton, while the other operates a store in Northern Canada. The third died of illness. Because of bad memories, Louis never returned to Uganda although a part of him wants to show his sons where he was born. Nova Scotia is certainly home; he loves the outdoors where he enjoys birding. “I didn’t experience any barriers living in Nova Scotia; what I saw was a community that wanted to help. Trust me; Canada is the land of opportunity.”