“Lebanon, a country often called “the jewel of the Middle East,” is where the poet Khalil Gibran came from. It’s also where many of the industrious entrepreneurs in Greater Moncton were born and raised.”~ India Intiar, Huddle Today, Moncton (Canada).
Many Lebanese in Moncton today are praised for their success in business, and many of them were immigrants who fled Lebanon, with practically nothing much, during the civil war between 1975 and 1990.
They worked hard, faced the challenges of adapting, missed home countless times, and challenged the harsh long Canadian winters, determined to make it through. And they did, successfully.
Among them today in Moncton, New Brunswick, McDonalds’ franchisee Georges Nammour, and Mike Timani who is the President of the Moncton Lebanese Association, and also a businessman, owner of the bread company Fancy Pokket.
“The Lebanese are known to have a lot of entrepreneurial spirit in them…You’ll find that even a family of five can open many businesses,” said Mike Timani to the Huddle Today, a Moncton business media blog.
Another similar success story is that of Fahd Doumany, who currently owns the franchise brand Freddie’s Pizza & Donair in 7 locations in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland, and up to open another one in the city of St. Stephen’s in Charlotte County (New Brunswick).
Doumany’s journey was not an easy one. At 22, he fled the war in Lebanon and managed to get asylum in Montreal, Canada. Living in difficulty with a refugee’s status, he quickly decided to join some family members who had established themselves in Halifax and were running already various businesses and restaurants, among which Sicilian Pizza and King of Donair.
“I couldn’t go to school, so it was best to work for my uncle for a little while and then in the pizza business. A lot of Lebanese immigrants at the time were there. They were really close to my uncle, so I got a job with some of his friends,” Doumany said.
By 1999, Doumany opened Freddie’s Pizza in Amherst in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. He then started gradually bringing in his family from Lebanon, starting with his parents and young brother then his nephews and even some friends. He helped them integrate, looked after them, and assisted them in opening restaurants.
Doumany’s relatives, who joined him from Halifax to help him set up Freddie’s Pizza in New Brunswick, ended also founding their own pizza places: PizzaPro and Jack’s Pizza.
Doumany’s nephew Fred, who eventually went to do his university in Canada, ended moving to Moncton in 2005 and opened a Freddie’s Pizza with the help of his uncle.
“I learned a lot from my uncle,” Fred shared. “Freddie’s Pizza was already set up and running and everybody knows Freddie’s Pizza. So it was easier for me to start under my uncle’s name, and he helped me a lot in the business too.”
From that young Lebanese refugee struggling his way through, to a network of a family food business, the Doumanys have been now guiding Lebanese newcomers on how to start and build their lives in Canada.
Lebanese-Canadians and Lebanese immigrants in New Brunswick are not only in the food business. They have been contributing to their cities with their businesses and skills in other fields, like engineering, medical, and others. Some occupy also leading positions in the private, government and non-government sectors.
Besides that, Lebanese people have been very active in the city and beyond. The Moncton Lebanese Association celebrates every year in November Lebanon Independence Day. The annual gala brings together Lebanese immigrants around Atlantic Canada; the Canadian maritime region that comprises the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.
As per Reem Fayyad, a board member of the association, the event is “an opportunity to network and share their experiences. (…). It also helps them share their culture and success with the community at large, inspiring newcomers and encouraging them to settle in the region and to follow the lead of Lebanese immigrants who have chosen N.B [New Brunswick] as their home.”
Lebanese immigration to Canada began in 1882, with the first immigrant being Ibrahim Abu Nader from Zahlé.
While Canada Census (2011) has estimated that there are 190,275 Canadians who claimed Lebanese ancestry, excluding the students on permanent study residence, New Brunswick counts only around 2,830 people of Lebanese origin.
It remains that, according to the same Census (2011), the Lebanese-Canadians are by far the largest group of people in Canada with Arabic-speaking roots, with Quebec and Ontario marking the highest numbers.