Minister Gibran Baseel (on stage) and MP for the Laval-Les Îles Riding Feisal el-Khoury (left (with crimson necktie)); the photo was taken on the conference’s third day during the inauguration of the “Lebanese-Canadian Immigrant House” in Betroun
Zeinab Ibraheem Merai
Around 2,000 people attended this year’s “Lebanese Diaspora Energy” that was commenced in BIEL* on 4 May 2017 and ended on 7 May. Most of the attendees were Lebanese immigrants, while few were foreigners with experience in certain fields.
Quick points on the annual conference:
- Sponsored and attended by President Michel Aoun
- Attended by some Lebanese politicians, including Prime Minister Saad el-Hariri, former President Amine el-Jmayyel, former President Michel Suleiman, former Education Minister Elias Abu Saab and MP Ni’matallah Abi Nasr
- Joined by immigrant MPs like Feisal el-Khoury, MP for the Laval-Les Îles Riding
- Around 2,000 visitors coming from 100 countries approximately
- Around 100-150 Canadians participated
How did the conference go?
The first couple of days featured words of welcome by Minister of Foreign Affairs Gebran Bassil and the recently elected Lebanese President Aoun, both showing warm welcomes.
On-stage business presentations and discussion forums were held. Information booths with introductory materials or miniatures lay out in the lounge, where project representatives could introduce their projects or works to the interested guests.
A dinner was held in Habtour-Hilton as well.
A visit to Baabda’s Presidential Palace and Betroun came third in day count. Out in the warm sun, President Aoun expressed warmth for the attendees, remarking “they needed to do their best to become influential wherever they lived.”
Then it was time to set to Betroun, where 7 new immigrant houses and an immigrant museum were inaugurated, including the Lebanese-Canadian House.
Betroun’s Mayor Marcelino el-Herak also spoke to honour the guests and confirmed Betroun was their city.
Bassil stated a statute had been recently drafted to help the Lebanese immigrants left without Lebanese identity retrieve it, just like he had promised in the previous years. He reminded the attendees with no Lebanese citizenship they needed to seek it.
Lunch was served at “Betrouniyyat”, a restaurant in Betroun.
On the fourth and last in day count (which saw a lesser number of participants) was a visit to Shatine, where the LDE head organiser Bassil echoed “threats” because of “too many Syrian refugees in the country”, asking for “US role to help resettle them in their homeland”.
There, the little crowd planted some cedar trees in the “Forest for Immigrants” in collaboration with USAID* and the USFS*-funded Lebanon Reforestation Initiative (LRI).
For her part, USAID Mission Director for Lebanon Dr Anne Patterson encouraged all to help “guard the forest” before they had lunch and set off to the “Baloo’ Bal’a” waterfall place.
Right to Left: Sheikh Ali Sbeity, Consul General Fadi Ziadeh and community member Redwan Nassereddine
What points have been on the minds of some participants?
Montreal’s Sheikh Ali Sbeity
- The meeting of the Lebanese diaspora is a need. As you know, millions of Lebanese descendants are scattered around the world.
However, we need committees to follow up through the year and to make the Lebanese descendants feel at home rather than visitors for three days a year, and that can happen by promoting diplomacy and tourism.
- Regarding the influence of the rising far-right movements, including the recent ones in France; for example, Marine Le Pen’s Islamophobic stances (including banning halal-meat trade), I believe that the majority of people in Canada are open-minded and will not be influenced.
Though there have been some hateful incidents, the major image for all Canadians is to receive immigrants from all over the world. The immigrants are ready to integrate into the society, so any focus on such issues will not be accepted by the mainstream Canadians. I guess Le Pen has been using such an issue to fuel the elections, just like they sometimes do in Quebec.
- On lobbying the Canadian government to stop the arms deal with Saudi Arabia that has raged war on Yemen, I can say that some MPs have brought the subject on, and campaigning groups are trying to convince the government to stop selling arms to the countries that use them against innocent civilians. I guess the economic situation is not helping to convince the politicians; Canada needs money as global changes have been emerging. They don’t feel secure giving this deal up, so what we will need is to conduct political campaigns and raise awareness to make the Canadian population pressure the MPS and the parliament to change such agreements.
Photos: Zeinab Ibraheem Merai, Sada al-Mashrek