A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada
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General History


In 1885, Julius Farhood arrived in Montral after 30 days at sea. He'd left his wife and his son in a Lebanon village, hoping to bring them over as soon as he could.

Farhood was among the first Lebanese immigrants to make the trek to Canada. The very first Lebanese immigrant arrived in 1882. Four more came in 1883; another ten in 1885, and 50 in 1890.(1) This early wave, or trickle, was made up of people originating mostly from the area then generally known as Syria, but the specific region is now called Lebanon. More than 90% were Christians trying to escape poverty and the Ottoman colonial regime from Turkey. Most made Montréal their first home.(2)

Upon arriving in Montréal, many immigrants like Julius Farhood, started their new lives as peddlers. The peddler's job was wearying and paid little. They were supported and supplied in their entrepreneurial spirit by an equally enterprising group of Syrian immigrants who opened wholesale stores to replenish the peddlers' merchandise. For years, Julius Farhood carried his box of dry goods through the small towns of Québec, village after village, saving his pennies for a better life.(3)

The Arab Canadian community began to take shape between 1891 and 1901 when increasing numbers of Syrian immigrants began joining their kin in Montréal and elsewhere. An average of 150 such immigrants arrived each year. By 1901 there were some 2,000 immigrants of Arabic origin in Canada. Julius Farhood's son Assaf came to Canada and joined his father peddling wares throughout Québec.(4)

It was the geographical mobility of peddling that motivated the spread of the Lebanese community outward from Montréal and surrounding villages. They went where business was good and settled their families in Ontario cities such as Ottawa, Toronto, London, Windsor, Sault Ste. Marie and North Bay.(5)

In 1911 the Arab community in Canada had grown to 7,000. For the following 40 years, however, few Arab immigrants entered Canada, a result of the severe immigration restrictions imposed on the admission of people considered to be of Asian origin.(6) Between 1911 and 1951, the growth of the Arab community depended almost exclusively on the number of babies born in Canada. (7)

Immigration opened up again during the post WWII period.(8) From 1946 to the early 1990s, over 200,000 immigrants to Canada came from the Arab world. The largest Arab immigrant group was from Lebanon with 49% of the Arab ethnic group in Canada being of Lebanese origin. The next largest groups are immigrants from Egypt, Morocco, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Algeria, Kuwait, Tunisia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and United Arab Emirates.(9)

An Olive Branch on the Family Tree, The Arabs in Canada, by Baha Abu-Laban
(McClelland and Stewart, Toronto, 1980).

The 1998 Canadian & World Encyclopedia
(McClelland and Stewart, Toronto, 1998).

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