Montreal

Protesters in Montreal call for Canada to sever ties with Lebanese government

The protest, held outside the Lebanese consulate in Outremont, comes in the wake of an explosion in Beirut last week.

Demonstration outside consulate latest in wake of Beirut explosion last week

Protesters, many of whom wore the Lebanon flag on their backs, stood outside the Lebanon consulate in Outremont Sunday. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

In a demonstration punctuated by grief and anger, dozens gathered outside the Lebanese consulate in Outremont Sunday to call on the Canadian government to stop recognizing the legitimacy of the current Lebanese regime.

The protest comes almost a week after an explosion devastated Beirut, killing nearly 160 people and injuring almost 6,000. 

The explosion last Tuesday was fuelled by thousands of tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been improperly stored at the city's port for more than six years. Apparently set off by a fire, the blast was by far the biggest in Lebanon's history. 

Since then, groups in Montreal have organized various events, including vigils to mourn the victims and demonstrations to demand political change.

Protesters on Sunday said the government's decades of negligence and corruption is to blame and they are calling for Canadian authorities to cut all ties with the regime and to expel the ambassador in Canada and the consul general in Montreal. 

Albert Mouawad has been attending protests against the Lebanese government every week since October, but he says the recent blast makes things all the more urgent. 

Mouawad said all Lebanese Montrealers should take this as an opportunity to unite for a common cause and remove the government. 

"Regardless of our differences and how we see the economy, and how we think social life should be in Lebanon, we have to put these things aside now and then try to unite in one goal, which is to overthrow this government," he said. 

Sara Ghandour moved to Montreal from Lebanon four years ago. She says her family just barely missed being hit by the explosion in Beirut last Tuesday. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

Ingrid Gedeon moved to Montreal from Lebanon 15 years ago. She has always dreamed of going back to the place she once called home, but she said that dream was torn away last week. 

"My earliest memories, my happiest memories were from there," Gedeon said. 

"I'm just so sad that nothing's left. There's nothing left to go back to and we're going to have to build everything from scratch."

Sara Ghandour, who also moved to Montreal from Lebanon, said her family just missed being hit by the explosion but several of her friends lost their homes. 

She hopes the explosion will act as a wake-up call for Canadians that things need to change. 

Ingrid Gedeon has spent the last 15 years dreaming of going back to her hometown in Lebanon. Now, she says the government has stripped that right away from her, by destroying the country as she knows it. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

"This is not just another explosion. This is not just something that happened in the Middle East that we can post about and share condolences with to our friends and then move on again," she said. "This is a crime against humanity."

In a statement Sunday, Adam Austen, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, said the Canadian government will continue to support the people of Lebanon as they try to bring about change and will "continue to advocate with the Lebanese government to these ends." 

Austen said the Canadian government has repeatedly called on Lebanon to implement reforms since October 2019. 

"The deterioration in economic, social and political conditions since October 2019, which has been compounded by the government's continued delays in implementing reforms and by the COVID-19 pandemic, is of great concern to us," Austen wrote. 

On Thursday, International Development Minister Karina Gould said direct aid will go to "trusted" humanitarian groups, and not to the Lebanese government.

With files from Simon Nakonechny

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