Halifax, the capital of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, is a major economic center in Atlantic Canada, with a large concentration of government services and private sector companies. At its point of entry, stands a beautiful statue representing the Lebanese Immigrant, a monument erected in 2018 to honor the early Lebanese settlers and to also recognize the strong influence and contribution of the Lebanese people in the city and the province.
"This monument is a universal symbol of a proud, strong, and globally united Lebanese community. The statue honors the early Lebanese settlers who, 130 years ago, established a presence in this country, sewing the bonds of loyalty, faith, and perseverance. We are thankful to our Nova Scotia community and for the enduring friendships built in our new home, Canada," the monument reads in golden letters.
The province of Nova Scotia has gone even beyond that recognition to officially declare November as the Lebanese Heritage Month of the province.
It is important to note here that this isn’t the first recognition in Canada honoring the Lebanese community with a heritage month. In 2017, Ottawa, the capital of Canada, declared also November as the Lebanese Heritage Month, and that in recognition of the significant contribution of the Lebanese to "the City's cultural, religious, economic, and political landscape."
In 2018, Nova Scotia officially declared November the Lebanese Heritage Month. The proclamation was signed by Premier Stephen McNeil in a ceremony attended by a number of prominent figures. “The Lebanese community is showing us how to do immigration,” said McNeil back then.
In fact, Canada has been welcoming Lebanese immigrants for more than a century now, providing them with opportunities, freedom, and safety, and, of course, a friendly land to call home.
Halifax, in particular, was one of the main points of entries for the early Lebanese who had migrated from Lebanon to Canada, most of whom disembarked on Pier 21. Early records indicate that many of them came from Akkar and Diman in the North of Lebanon, and as early as the late 1800s.
There is something particularly relevant about the Lebanese community of Halifax that stands out among the Lebanese diaspora in Canada. They are strongly united and support each other, in addition to being very successful while modest and down to earth, and certainly well-respected.
Among their endeavors of mutual support, the Lebanese Chamber of Commerce gives out $10,000 a year in scholarships to Lebanese students as well as matching Lebanese graduates with potential employers through their Connector Program.
As reported by The961 founder upon his visit to the Lebanese Community in Halifax, “It's not the Lebanese who immigrated to Halifax that are the ones making an effort to grow the community and preserve the culture and tradition. It's their children and grandchildren, most of whom were born in Canada. But they are as Lebanese as it gets -speaking perfect Lebanese without an accent, holding onto and sharing our culture and traditions.”
So, what has brought Nova Scotia province to allocate a month of the year to honor the cultural heritage of the Lebanese in their city?
See, when we said above that they are very successful, we actually meant amazingly widely successful. They own a major percentage of the local businesses in Halifax: countless large developments, buildings, and restaurant chains.
For a city deemed small in Canada (like a little more than half Lebanon’s size, by the way: 5,490.35 km2) with a skyline deemed small (by Canadian standard, of course), these large buildings and developments built by the Lebanese can’t but stand out impressively.
And logically, this major number of Lebanese businesses has created an average of almost 3000 jobs a year in Halifax. The rental properties in Halifax, for example, are 75% owned by the Lebanese.
Let me point out here that the city counts about 15,000 Lebanese people only among a population of a little over 400,000. When you think of the businesses and developments they have been contributing to the city economy, this is outstanding.
On the other hand, while that number seems small, about 3.75% of the general population, this is bigger than the national average where Lebanese people make up 2% of the Canadian population.
In the words of The961 founder, “The Lebanese in Halifax have all the necessary 'ingredients' for a strong community: A vibrant community, a people willing to thrive, strong private and public leadership, businesses and entrepreneurs that are supported and in turn give back to the community, and most importantly, the love for Lebanon and the will to preserve its identity, culture, and traditions.”
The Lebanese community has started celebrating the month with a ceremony of raising the Lebanese Flag. Numerous events are planned for this month in the province to celebrate their Lebanese cultural heritage.
According to their website, "This annual celebration is an opportunity to honor and celebrate our vibrant Lebanese community and culture, and educate all citizens about Lebanese Canadians and their continuing role in helping to foster growth, prosperity, and innovation throughout Nova Scotia."