Hussein Hoballah, Montreal
Following some Arab Canadian MPs on social media, especially Lebanese Canadians, I am highly impressed by their straight openness as to non-Lebanese communities’ issues. But I am hit hard and disappointed, as many community members are, when those MPs overlook issues of importance to their community; they’d always claimed they would be true representatives serving and advocating for the community.
In May, I kept trace of the Facebook activity of three federal Lebanese - Canadian MPs who represent their parties in various Canadian cities and provinces, and I noticed that the most outspoken has celebrated three of the other communities’ observances; as last month began, MP Fayçal al-Khoury congratulated the Jewish community on the “Jewish Heritage Month”, which is perceived as a chance to remind younger generations of the role of Jewish Canadians, and to educate them on it. Aside from the doubt-raising way al-Khoury made his wishes, it is natural and imperative to recognise the Jewish community and its big efforts contributing to Canada’s rise in the recent decades.
On 19 May, too, Mr al-Khoury made a video to mark “Mullivaikkal Remembrance Day”, the 11th anniversary of the end of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka, which ended in 2009, claiming the lives of thousands of Tamil civilians and militants. That, too, is a commendable, good-sighted stance; it is lovely to remember all Canadian communities and the sufferance they’ve gone through back in their homelands, and to stand by them and participate in marking their observances.
Further occasions were held last month, and I noticed that MP al-Khoury, again, plus Lebanese-Canadian MPs Marwan Tabbara and Ziad Abultaif, had expressed wishes for “Vyshyvanka Day”, which marks the Ukrainians’ struggle for their sovereignty, democracy and freedom, and on which Ukrainians and international friends wear an embroidered Ukrainian shirt to show unity, dignity and love. We can only perceive those MPs’ stances as mindful care shown to a cause that really matters to the Ukrainian Canadians.
Then came Eid ul-Fitr, on 24 May, and those MPs expressed their wishes, as did many federal and provincial politicians from different parties. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s was special, commending Canadian Muslims’ role in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Similar words were made by Tory leader Andrew Scheer, too.
It must now be said that Quebec Liberals’ new leader Dominique Anglade did not express any wishes to Quebec’s Muslim community as to Eid ul-Fitr, dismaying the community and raising uncertainties that Ms Anglade and her staff need to clear out. Also noticed was Quebec’s Premier François Legault’s silence; his Facebook page showed no felicitations at all.
Just the second day, the 25th of May, the Lebanese reminisced on the expulsion of Israel’s military from Lebanon and the end of a stage of bloodshed, sufferance and adversity (1978-2000). Back then, massacres were committed, and the Lebanese were terrorised, displaced and imprisoned.
Musing on our dear MPs’ openness, I expected we would see them – before other Canadian politicians – commend that day, just like they did to mark the other communities’. But, in fact, the day was overlooked though it did matter to the Lebanese as much as other celebrations mattered to others. We don’t even need to compare; we’d been expecting that our community MPs – at least – would observe the day. Eventually, they’ve always confirmed they sought parliament to stand for our concerns. Then some didn’t just forget about the community; they even denied any acquaintance with its recognised institutions and activists. Otherwise, their hard-won, invaluable “seats” would be endangered!
There is nothing that matters more to the Lebanese and brings them pride than this day; the Lebanese have made it crystal clear that their patience, struggle and resistance to the world’s most barbaric military blossomed, yielding fruits of unforgettable dignity and triumph.
And once we say the Israeli military showed such great barbarism, we rely on actual happenings in Lebanon, not to mention elsewhere: During the Sabra-Shatila Massacres, thousands of civilians – including women and children – were slaughtered under direct Israeli supervision. Later came the Qana Massacres that slayed many. Civilian detainees were brutalised in the concentration camps of al-Khiyam, Itleet and Ansaar. West Beqaa and Southern towns were besieged, and the towns by the occupied borderline were shelled every day.
The 25th of May ended most of the sufferance; the Israeli occupiers were expelled, along with their disgraceful, treasonous Lebanese agents that had helped the occupation to take hold of power in Lebanon. It is very absurd that today, though, some are asking for exonerating those agents and allowing them back into Lebanon!
We might understand some justifications made as to certain blurry situations, but not recognising this day – no matter what the reason is – means the community and its recent history’s pride are being underestimated. If they do represent our community, our MPs must share our happiness and honour, just like they do to other communities.