Third reading of Bill S-246, An Act Respecting Lebanese Heritage Month

By: The Hon. Jane Cordy

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Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, as I rise to speak at third reading of Bill S-246, I acknowledge that we are meeting on the traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin and Anishinaabe peoples.

It is fitting that I speak today at third reading of this bill, as it is still November, and Bill S-246 would designate the month of November as Lebanese heritage month in Canada. In my second reading speech, I detailed the historical events that make the month of November significant for Lebanese people, and I will not repeat that here, but I will say that last Tuesday, November 22, 2022, Lebanese people around the world celebrated Lebanese Independence Day and 79 years of independence.

On Sunday, November 20, 2022, my city of Halifax celebrated Nova Scotia’s Lebanese Heritage Month with a ceremony and the raising of the Lebanese flag in front of City Hall. I was pleased and honoured to be invited to attend the Canadian Lebanon Society of Halifax’s event this past Saturday evening, which closed out Lebanese Heritage Month in Nova Scotia with great Lebanese food and great music. These events in Nova Scotia give Lebanese Nova Scotians the opportunity to celebrate and share their culture, their history and their contributions to their home province of Nova Scotia.

When asked during committee examination of the bill about Nova Scotia’s Lebanese Heritage Month and what he envisioned a national recognition could contribute, Wadih Fares, Honorary Consul of Lebanon in Halifax, had this to say:

When Nova Scotia declared November as Lebanese Heritage Month, it had a positive impact on our community. It showed that we are seen and we are valued and, in turn, created a stronger partnership between our community and the province. Our culture and heritage are woven into the fabric of Nova Scotia, making the province stronger and more diverse, and I believe that a national Lebanese heritage month will have the same yet even broader-reaching impact.

During the committee hearing, Senator Petitclerc referred to this bill as a tool to help bring people together, and that is exactly what this bill is intended to do. It is a tool to not only show and display Lebanese culture and heritage, but also for other Canadians to learn about Lebanese culture. For it is only when we come together that we can truly get to know one another.

As Mr. Fares said during the committee hearing:

That is the most important thing. We are a multicultural country, and I think we can be a stronger and better country if we know each other better.

Honourable senators, Canada is a country made up of countless cultures and people. Senator Housakos said it very well in his second reading speech when he said:

. . . the reality of the matter is that Canada is essentially strong because of all the sums of all our parts. It is imperative that all our parts feel that Canadian family and recognition.

Mr. Fares echoed this when he spoke of being seen and feeling valued.

This is what I hope Bill S-246 will achieve as we celebrate a national Lebanese heritage month in the years ahead. I want to thank Senator Simons and the bill’s critic Senator Housakos for their speeches and support of Bill S-246 at second reading. Also, I want to thank the members of the Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee for their work, and their excellent questions and comments, at the committee hearing.

I would also like to thank Lena Diab, Member of Parliament for Halifax West, and a prominent member of the Lebanese community in the Halifax area, without whose support this bill would not be here today.

Lastly, I would like to recognize and pay tribute to Mr. Wadih Fares for his passion and dedication — not only to the Lebanese community, but also for a lifetime of positive contributions to his adopted province of Nova Scotia.

In 1976, Mr. Fares immigrated to Canada as a student at the onset of the Lebanese Civil War with nothing more than, as he put it, “my mother’s prayers and the will to make a good life in a new country . . . .”

Mr. Fares did just that. He gained his Bachelor of Engineering degree from Technical University of Nova Scotia, and a Diploma of Engineering from Dalhousie University. He went on to form his own successful construction company, W.M. Fares Group, which many in Halifax credit with developing the skyline of Halifax over the past 21 years. He has been recognized many times over for his business acumen. He was awarded Halifax Chamber of Commerce Business Person of the Year, Atlantic Business Magazine’s Top 50 CEO of the Year award, and named to the Atlantic Business Magazine’s Hall of Fame. He has received an Honorary Doctorate in Commerce from Saint Mary’s University in 2009 and sits on the Dalhousie Board of Governors.

He is the Honorary Consul of Lebanon for the Maritime provinces. He also sat on the Nova Scotia minister’s Immigration Advisory Council. These are just a few of his achievements. In 2012, Mr. Fares was recognized for his entrepreneurial spirit and community service, and was invested as a member of the Order of Canada.

Colleagues, Mr. Fares is a perfect example of the entrepreneurial spirit that Senator Housakos spoke of in his speech — which drives many immigrants to carve out the best life possible for themselves and for their families. These opportunities are what our country can provide, and they are the reason that many choose to make Canada their home. Immigrants to Canada can be measured in what they give back economically, socially, culturally, philanthropically and politically.

Honourable senators, immigrants make Canada a better place for all of us. Ontario and Nova Scotia were the first provinces to officially recognize November as Lebanese Heritage Month. My hope is that Bill S-246 will pass through Parliament in a timely manner, and that next year we will celebrate as a nation alongside the 400,000 Lebanese Canadians during the first national Lebanese heritage month.

My bill is a short one, but it has the potential to make a difference to a large number of Canadians — to make them feel seen, and to make them feel valued. I hope that I can count on your support.

Thank you. MeegwetchShukran.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

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