Excellency Mr. Gebran Bassil’s visit was indeed a great honor to our small Lebanese community in Vancouver.
On Tuesday June 9th, 2015, the Lebanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister Bassil, who was accompanied by chargé d’affaires Mr. Sami Haddad and a Lebanese delegation consisting of 11 members arrived at Vancouver International Airport at around 9:15pm. They were greeted by representatives from the Lebanese community in BC and Minister Bassil was presented with a beautiful bouquet of flowers by a very young youth member of the Lebanese Canadian Society of BC.
Minister Bassil and chargé d’affaires Mr. Sami Haddad were transported in private cars while his Lebanese delegation were transported to the hotel by a special bus proudly decorated with the Lebanese flags.
The delegation reached the hotel around 10:30 pm and were welcomed by more than a 150 guests from the Lebanese Community who were eagerly waiting to meet and greet
His Excellency Mr. Gebran Bassil. Minister Bassil took the time to personally go around the room and greet every single guest individually before heading to his table.
After the Canadian and Lebanese anthems were played, LCS President, Carla Zarifeh, welcomed the minister to our town and thanked everyone for taking the time to come and meet with him.
Before His Excellency Mr. Gebran Bassil made his speech, a few videos were shown:
- “From the heart of Lebanon” by Lebanese aiming to encourage Lebanese living abroad to buy Lebanese products. It’s a campaign by the ministry of foreign affairs and immigrants.
- Lebanon Connect! An initiative launched by the ministry aiming to connect all Lebanese living abroad. It’s smartphone App where you can search for other Lebanese. It can be used as a social App or can help people promote their business or products.
- Lebanese Diaspora Energy Conference 2015 the was held on May 21-23 with over 1350 attendees from 73 countries
Following the videos, WLCU-BC council President Dr.Nick Kahwaji welcomed the minister and commented about this historical trip to the “extreme Canadian West” and explained the history of the Lebanese community since 1888. He also explained the necessity to have an honorary consulate in BC. Dr. Nick Kahwaji informed Minister Bassil that Halifax and BC will work together towards the realisation of the Lebanese Canadian house in Batroun and proceeded to introduce Minister Bassil
Minister Bassil started his speech by discussing his excitement to be in Vancouver and then discussed his plans to create an Immigration Village in his hometown of Batroun, Lebanon. The Immigration village will include different old houses which will be all restored by various Lebanese communities around the globe. Canada will have one of these houses dedicated to the Canadian Heritage and it will be up to the Lebanese in Canada to turn this house into a museum displaying their culture and tradition. The Minister then discussed the Lebanon Connect App and his initiative to encourage the purchase of Lebanese merchandise to help improve the Lebanese economy. Minister Bassil concluded his talk by a Q&A session where he patiently answered different questions/concerns some of the guests.
Paul Dana representing the Iraqi Christian community presented the ministre a document about the persecution of the minorities in Iraq, and thanked the minister of his support in Visiting Baghdad and Arbil.
After the conclusion of his speech, LCS president Carla Zarifeh along with WLCU BC council president Dr. Nick Kahwaji presented the minister a souvenir Inukshuk statue. Minister Bassil took the time to mingle with the guests and take pictures with everyone.
After a long evening, His Excellency Mr. Gebran Bassil, retired to his room to get ready for the early start of his next day which was packed with a visit to the Gebran monument at SFU, a visit to the Lebanese Cedar Tree at Queen Elizabeth Park followed by a cruise brunch.
It was an early morning start on Wednesday June 10th, 2015 for His Excellency Mr. Gebran Bassil and his delegation including chargé d’affaires Mr. Sami Haddad. After breakfast and a discussion with Dr. Nick Kahwaji, WLCU BC council president, in regards to the project of the Titanic Memorial in Lebanon, the bus arrived at the hotel at 7am.
The first stop was Simon Fraser University, where he was greeted by Mr. Darryl Maclean who was representing the Dean of SFU. Mr. Maclean explained how proud he was of the relationship between SFU and the Lebanese community and discussed the details of the Gibran project on the university campus and working towards a Lebanese study centre at SFU. Mr. Maclean presented His Excellency, Mr. Gebran Bassil, a book about the history of the university as well as a proposal regarding the Lebanese diaspora study at SFU.
Next stop was Queen Elizabeth Park to visit the Lebanese memorial. His Excellency admired the Cedar tree that was planted over 61 years ago as well as the plaque that was dedicated to the Lebanese who founded the Lebanese society. He also saw the new benches that were recently unveiled on June 7th, 2015. Dr. Antoine El Hage offered Mr. Bassil a historical map of Lebanon during the ottoman occupation and Dr. Nick Kahwaji gifted him a statue of Gibran Khalil Gibran that commemorated the 125th anniversary of Gibran.
Souvenir pictures were taken in the beautiful setting.
After Queen Elizabeth Park, His Excellency Mr. Gebran Bassil and his delegation including chargé d’affaires Mr. Sami Haddad, made their way to Coal Harbour for a boat cruise brunch to show the Minister our beautiful city,
and concluded with a Helicopter trip over Vancouver toward the airport, courtesy of Eng Ali Taleb.