Lebanon's Revolution: Open Letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

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Toronto, 4 November, 2019

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada

Dear Prime Minister,

Since October 17, peaceful and spontaneous uprisings have filled the streets in Lebanon, transcending confessional and political divisions. Protests of this size and scale with such a unified message across groups and communities had never been seen in Lebanon. According to the latest estimates, more than a quarter of the population is taking part in these demonstrations so far, while many of the Lebanese Diaspora across the globe have showed their support to the revolution through local protests and solidarity actions, including many cities in Canada.

The essence of Lebanon’s current uprising lies in the Lebanese people’s courage to name and shame the country’s sectarian political system, which was enshrined in the 1943 National Pact and reaffirmed in the Taif Accords that ended the Lebanese civil war. While in theory this system is meant to provide political representation of all Lebanese religious groups, through a division of parliamentary seats based on the size of each confessional community, the system has in reality become a tool for powerful elites to monopolize the economy.

The current political leaders are the direct by products of sectarian militias that led the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). Some are outright former warlords and their allied businessmen and family members, and collectively they took political power after the civil war by replacing the state at the local level as the source of finance for reconstruction. These leaders initially used their patronage networks to dominate parliamentary politics. And later, extended their influence to other domains of power by creating local party apparatuses that now control most municipal councils.

According to the World Bank, chronic fiscal deficits have increased Lebanon’s debt-to-GDP ratio to 151%, the third highest in the world. A debt in large part  held internally by Lebanese banks. One third of Lebanon’s population lives under the poverty line. Lebanon's decaying infrastructure, which includes long and frequent power outages, no potable running water, and subpar road conditions, has meant that living standards are intolerable for many Lebanese citizens.

With Lebanon’s credit ratings hitting junk status, unemployment rampant, and environmental degradation reaching cataclysmic levels, the floor under the sectarian system has caved in. The sheer corruption, incompetence, and social injustice of the political class have destroyed the social contract.

What remains now is to rebuild Lebanon based on a new legal and political order. Our duty as Canadian Lebanese citizens is to support our compatriots who rebel rightly, against an incompetent and corrupt political class that has succeeded to stay in power for 30 years. Supporting this uprising could put an end to the ethnic clientelism that has empowered corrupt leaders and give the Lebanese people the chance to live in dignity in their own land.

We, the signatories, solemnly request the Prime Minister of Canada to:

a) Support this legitimate revolt of the Lebanese people and ask the current authorities to adopt a zero-tolerance stance to any excessive use of force against peaceful protesters by Lebanese security forces, Lebanese army, or any Lebanese political party[1].
b) Suspend and stop any financial aid or loan to a government that no longer has the confidence of the people.

Yours Faithfully,

Mirna El Sabbagh, Oakville

Hadil El-Baba, Toronto

Hamsa Diab, Toronto

[1] https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/11/lebanon-investigate-excessive-use-of-force-including-use-of-live-ammunition-to-disperse-protests/ on 2 Nov, 2019