One year after the Beirut explosion, the Lebanese diaspora in Canada demands accountability

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A year after a massive explosion in Beirut killed 214 people, destroyed much of the city and plunged the Lebanese economy into despair, Canadians of Lebanese descent are calling on Ottawa to divert its financial aid from the Lebanese government while by demanding a full investigation of the explosion.

On August 4, 2020, a fire in the port of Beirut ignited a reserve of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate which had been stored for six years in a warehouse, without appropriate security measures, after being confiscated by the Lebanese authorities. to a boat.

It was one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history. Two Canadians, including a three-year-old girl, were among those killed.

Documents have since shown that high-level officials have been repeatedly warned of the risk but failed to act.

An investigation has so far failed to determine who ordered the shipment of the chemicals and why authorities ignored the warnings.

Julnar Doueik, who moved from Beirut to Vancouver just weeks before the explosion, said there had been little or no responsibility, making it impossible to move.

“Our wound is still open, our emotional and psychological bruises are as painful as they were a year ago – but we are also very furious because justice is nowhere to be found in Lebanon. origin of the Beirut explosion, due to criminal negligence, they continue to hamper the investigation, ”she said.

“Many lives have been lost. An entire city has been destroyed. Canadian lives were also lost in this explosion and we have no answers.”

Residents of Beirut carry photos of some of the victims of the blast in the city’s port district during a march on Wednesday, as Lebanon marks the first anniversary of the blast. (Mohamed Azakir / Reuters)

Doueik is part of the United Diaspora Network – also known as Meghterbin Mejtemiin – a group based in 35 cities around the world, including Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa, which seeks to support Lebanon from abroad.

The group calls on the Canadian government to provide technical assistance in the investigation, to suspend humanitarian aid to the Lebanese government and, instead, to redirect funds to civil society groups.

Over the past year, Canada has provided approximately $ 50 million for early recovery efforts, humanitarian assistance and long-term reconstruction of the city.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said on Wednesday that Canada continued to call for a full and transparent investigation.

“We remain firmly on the side of the Lebanese people and are ready to support them more. Canada will continue to reiterate that Lebanese leaders must act now to form a government that can and will undertake the reforms the country desperately needs, ”Garneau said in a statement.

The economic crisis worsens

Since the explosion, Lebanon has sunk deeper into the economic crisis while trying to rebuild itself, resulting in a devastating currency crash, hyperinflation and widespread shortages.

Doueik says the United Diaspora Network is raising funds to send supplies, including life-saving medicines, in suitcases with people returning to Lebanon.

“We are trying here to mobilize the Lebanese community in Canada. We need to muster our energy to support the people back home, ”she said.

“We get calls every day from our families at home, from friends, telling us how difficult it is to get basic supplies. Mothers cannot find milk for their babies. The sick cannot find medicine. There is a shortage of electricity and fuel. heartbreaking.”

A vigil for the victims of the blast will be held at UBC Robson Square in downtown Vancouver on Wednesday at 6 p.m. PT.


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