Lebanese community celebrates big year in P.E.I.

Documentary and purchase of clubhouse celebrated at annual levee

Mitch MacDonald comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on January 18, 2014

A sneak peek of documentary telling the story of the Lebanese community’s journey to P.E.I. was given to a Charlottetown crowd Saturday.

Close to 10 minutes of the film was shown at the Lebanese Levee hosted by the Canadian Lebanese Association (CLA) of Prince Edward Island at the Delta Prince Edward.

David Rashed, who was master of ceremonies and also filmed and edited the documentary, said he began working directly on the project right after an application for 2014 funding was accepted.

However, Rashed also drew upon some footage he shot in Lebanon several years ago for the documentary, which also has interviews with both old and young generations of the community now living in P.E.I.

“It was just a real gift to go all over (the province) and talk to different members of the community I had never met before and hear their stories,” said Rashed.

While the documentary was the highlight of the night, it wasn’t the only thrill for partiers.

The Cedar Festival Dancers and professional belly dancer Carole Dahab both provided entertainment. Authentic Lebanese cuisine was also served, including; hummus, tabouli, kibee, grape leaves and cabbage rolls .

Fadi Rashed, president of the CLA on P.E.I., thanked members of the Lebanese community, sponsors and guests for sharing in the celebration.

He said the past year had been a busy one for the CLA, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013.

He noted that while the association has been around for 50 years, the Lebanese community has been in the province for well over 100 years.

“During that time, they (the Lebanese community) were working for a place, a clubhouse or something like that, they never had one,” said Rashed. “This year we were finally able to purchase a building in Charlottetown… It will be a school for our children to learn Arabic, a meeting place, just a place to go and call home.”

Health minister Doug Currie brought greetings from the province on behalf of Premier Robert Ghiz, who was one of many interviewed for the documentary.

“I do not have the same blood ties to the Lebanese community as the premier, who takes great pride in his ancestry. However, I do share his enormous pride in the outstanding contributions the community has made to Prince Edward Island,” said Currie. “Those who came here from Lebanon over the past number of decades have become an integral part of life in this great province we all call home.”

Charlottetown mayor Clifford Lee also congratulated the organization and pointed towards the number of contributions made by the Lebanese community to the city throughout history.

“We often hear talk about economic development and those types of things. Can you just think for a second the level of economic activity that the Lebanese community brought to this city and province, the number of jobs they’ve created for Islanders,” said Lee. “They really have become a significant part of our community. I want to thank the Lebanese community for your investment and confidence into this city.”

Organizers said the documentary will likely be at City Cinema for at least one showing before it is made available to the public on DVD.