BEIRUT —In Canada, the month of November will now be designated as Lebanese Heritage Month each year.
The legislation was unanimously approved by the House of Commons on June 14 and given Royal Assent on June 20.
The month aims to "recognize, and above all celebrate, the invaluable social, economic, cultural, religious, military, philanthropic and political contributions of Canadians of Lebanese origin to the building of Canadian society, past and present."
The celebration of "Lebanese Heritage Month" will encourage Canadians of Lebanese origin to "promote their culture and traditions and share them with other Canadians," according to the law. Lebanese Independence Day is celebrated every year on Nov. 22.
The bill was introduced last April by Senator Jane Cordy and supported in the House of Commons by Lebanese-Canadian MP Léna Metlege Diab.
During a reading of the bill in June 2022, Diab — whose parents are first-generation immigrants from Diman, a village in northern Lebanon — paid tribute to several Lebanese-Canadian historical figures, such as William Haddad, "a merchant's son who became one of Canada's first Arab judges," and Lieutenant Edward Francis Arab, who "gave his life for Canada" when he died in the 1944 Battle of the Scheldt during the Second World War.
Diab also cited Lebanese-Canadian athletes, artists and diplomats, noting that many Canadian "academics and advocates" are of Lebanese origin, as well as leaders from "all levels of government and political parties," including former senators and MPs.
"Canadians of Lebanese origin have had a strong presence in our country since the late 19th century," said Diab.
Global Affairs Canada, an official website, estimates that the Lebanese community in Canada "numbers between 200,000 and 400,000 people, and that between 40,000 and 75,000 Canadians live in Lebanon."
According to the Canadian government's site on the heritage of Asian communities in the country, people of Lebanese origin were "the sixth largest non-European ethnic group in the country [in 2001], living mainly in Ontario and Quebec."
The site also reports significant Lebanese communities in "Atlantic Canada, notably Nova Scotia and New Brunswick."
Forgetting, or losing, heritage
"In my experience, there are unfortunately many who have forgotten or lost their Lebanese heritage, or sometimes even suppressed it ... That's part of the reason why this designation is so important to so many people," added Diab.
The official government website claims Canada has welcomed immigrants of Lebanese origin since the 1880s.
"It is generally accepted that the first immigrant of Arab origin to Canada was a Lebanese man by the name of Ibrahim Abou Nader, who came in 1882 from the city of Zahle, then located in the moutassarifat of Mount Lebanon, an autonomous territory of the Ottoman Empire," who settled in Montreal, according to the website. The migratory flow then intensified during the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990), before turning into a post-conflict movement of economic immigrants and academics.
"Lebanese Heritage Month" in Canada was already in effect at a regional level in the provinces of Ontario and Nova Scotia, since 2018.
The month aims to "recognize, and above all celebrate, the invaluable social, economic, cultural, religious, military, philanthropic and political contributions of Canadians of...