Lebanese statue commemorates immigration | Living

Immigration may be a divisive topic in some parts of the world but it was celebrated Saturday on the Halifax waterfront, where a statue commemorating Lebanese emigrants was unveiled steps away from a large tent where Chinese culture was being promoted.

“In a time when the politics of division is on the rise and the topic of immigration is being politicized for political gain, this monument and the community behind it is an irrefutable testament to the importance of immigration to our country,” said Wadih Fares, honorary consul of Lebanon for the Maritime provinces and a prominent Halifax developer, who hosted the unwrapping of the statue.

Fares said the event was a defining moment for the local Lebanese community, which wanted to honour its forefathers.

“Without their courage, resilience and zeal for a better life, none of our lives would be the same; our city would not have been the same,” he said.

“They left their villages, families and way of life, and ventured into the unknown. They are the true heroes. They overcame obstacles, culture and language barriers, and against all odds they made a life here and paved the way for many generations.

“Of course, it is the welcoming and generous society that has helped them unleash their full potential, to contribute to the building of this great city of Halifax, to the province of Nova Scotia and our magnificent country.”

Known as the Lebanese emigrant statue, versions of it have been erected in several places.

“The statue is not unique,” Fares said.

“It can be found around the world, where other Lebanese emigrants have settled in large numbers. It is a universal symbol of the proud, strong and globally united Lebanese diaspora, uniting them to their homeland and to one another.

“It was originally commissioned in 1979 in Mexico City when the Mexican Lebanese were celebrating their 100 years of existence in Mexico. They asked a Mexican Lebanese artist, the late Ramis Barquet, to come up with a sculpture that represented the Lebanese diaspora and explained the hardships of the emigrants away from their homeland.”


The edition on the Halifax waterfront places the determined-looking traveller in traditional dress with his back to the mouth of the harbour, as if he just arrived.

“It represents the love, the honour and respect we feel for this great nation that welcomed our ancestors 130 years ago with open arms and provided them freedom and opportunity. This piece of public art is a gift from us to our city, which we love and are blessed to call home,” said Fares.

Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, head of Lebanon’s Eastern-rite Maronite Church, was spending the weekend in Halifax as part of a Canadian tour.

“I catch myself becoming emotional at this occasion,” he said, through a translator, at the ceremony.

“I salute Halifax and Canada because the first emigrants from Lebanon came here, through Halifax. I wish to thank Canada for having welcomed our people so warmly.”

According to the Maronites’ website, the first Lebanese came to Canada in 1884.

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