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Canadians celebrating Lebanese heritage thanks to Dal alum

Halifax West Member of Parliament Lena Metledge Diab (MPA’87, LLB’90) sponsored Bill S-246 establishing November as Lebanese Heritage Month across Canada.

Posted: November 15, 2023

By: Alison DeLory

A portrait of a light-skinned woman with short sandy blond hair; she smiles at the camera. She is wearing a red scarf tied at the neck, and matching red lipstick and earrings. Her blazer is black with a silver lapel pin.

Halifax West Member of Parliament and Dal alum Lena Metlege Diab (MPA’87, LLB’90) sponsored a bill establishing November as Lebanese Heritage Month that members of all parties joined together to pass.

“This important recognition, on the national level, is a tribute to everything Lebanese Canadians have accomplished over almost a century and a half in our country,” Metlege Diab said.

Lebanese people have been emigrating to Canada since the 1800s with the greatest influx during the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990). According to Statistics Canada, the Lebanese population in Canada grew by nine per cent between 1996 and 2001—more than double the growth rate for the overall population. Today, Lebanese Canadians live across the country, with concentrations in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, Windsor, Ont., London, Ont., Edmonton, Fredericton and Charlottetown. Halifax, in particular, is known for its strong Lebanese community, and the city hosts two different annual Lebanese festivals.

Lost heritage and the opportunity for rediscovery

In her speech on the bill, Metlege Diab touched upon the many stories she heard throughout her decades of involvement in the Lebanese community in Halifax and Nova Scotia. Her remarks highlighted those Canadians who had lost connection to their Lebanese heritage through assimilation and fear of prejudice, as well as the opportunity for rediscovery of that heritage that the proclamation of Lebanese Heritage Month in Nova Scotia provided in 2018.

With the passage of S-246, communities across Canada are now celebrating their first Lebanese Heritage Month in November 2023. The month of November is of particular significance to Lebanese around the world, as Lebanese Independence Day is marked each year on Nov. 22.

“This bill’s passage is going to encourage people to get in touch with their Lebanese heritage, foster deeper connections with Canada’s Lebanese communities, and provide a new and exciting platform for the celebration of Lebanese culture, food, history, and art in each and every province and territory,” said Metlege Diab.

Just last month, Metlege Diab was recognized by Dalhousie’s Schulich School of Law with induction into the Bertha Wilson Honours Society for lifelong dedication to justice, diversity and community service.

Many Dal alumni have Lebanese heritage

Metlege Diab is one of many members of Dalhousie’s alumni community with Lebanese heritage. Others include Louis Lawen (BEng’94), John Lawen (BSc’94), Maurice Fares (BComm’09), Alex Halef (BEng’01), Robert Zed (MHSA’86), Wadih Fares (BEng’80), Edward Arab (BA’35, LLB’37), Dr. Kevin Orrell (MD’81), Patricia Arab (BA’99) and there are many more.

In a video she released on Nov. 1, 2023, Metlege Diab, speaking a mixture of Arabic, English and French, said: “I encourage all Lebanese Canadians to promote their traditions and culture, and to celebrate and share them with all Canadians coast to coast to coast. There is so much going on to mark our first Lebanese Heritage Month…. This is the culmination of years of hard work, pride and support from generations of Lebanese Canadians, families, friends and neighbours.”

With files from Parkview News.