MONTREAL (CITYNEWS) – A longtime Montreal resident who was killed in the deadly blast in Lebanon’s capital on Tuesday is being mourned and remembered as a dedicated member of the community.
Montreal businessman and Lebanese politician Nazar Najarian died in the explosion at Beirut’s port that killed 135 people and injured about 5,000 others.
Najarian was working and living in Lebanon for the past few years. He regularly returned to Montreal, where his wife and daughters live.
“He got a job offer probably three years ago and he decided to leave and try to make a change there on a political level,” said friend Aref Salem. “So he went back. He got involved. He has values and he died for his values.”
Najarian worked in Beirut as secretary general of Lebanon’s Kataeb Party. Back home, he was a successful businessman; he founded a Montreal-based import-export company in 2013. He was also an activist within Montreal’s Lebanese community.
“He created employment here in Montreal,” said Lamia Charlebois, another of Najarian’s close friends. “He contributed to the society here while being involved in NGOs here and there. He’s a good Christian. It’s a big loss.
“He’s an example to follow in terms of true patriotism, devotion, loyalty.”
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Najarian’s wife was also in Beirut but was not harmed in the deadly explosion.
“She wasn’t with him so she is not wounded,” said Charlebois. “And the children are travelling there today to be with their mother.”
Authorities believe the blast may have been caused by the improper storage of 2,750 tons of a highly explosive fertilizer – ammonium nitrate – in a waterfront warehouse.
Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante extended her condolences to Najarian’s family in a tweet on Tuesday, calling it a sad day for Montreal’s Lebanese community. Flags at city hall and at the Lebanese consulate flew at half mast in a day of mourning.
On this day of national mourning in Lebanon and in honor of all those who were affected by the terrible explosion in #Beirut, @MTL_Ville lowered its flags to half-mast. To support the Lebanese community ➡ https://t.co/nXxVf7L0iV #polmtl pic.twitter.com/qkDgPEO7xa
— Valérie Plante (@Val_Plante) August 5, 2020
Quebec is home to more than 30 per cent of Canada’s Lebanese population – most living in Montreal, where a vigil was organized for Wednesday evening.
“Everyone knows someone who’s injured,” said Charlebois. “I have a friend who lost his eye, and he’s a doctor.”
The explosion is yet another setback for a country that has dealt with much instability in the past few years – wars, terrorist bombings, protests and an economic collapse.
“I think the last 24 hours have been the toughest 24 hours that any Lebanese immigrant has probably lived since the October Revolution (2019),” said Stephani Moukhaiber, who belongs to a citizen-led group supporting Lebanese initiatives. “I lived through 2005 with all the bombings that happened. I lived through 2006 in the Israeli war.
“I came to Canada about eight years ago and I think what happened yesterday (Tuesday) got everyone so paralyzed to the point where the trauma is never ending.”
Several people want the Quebec and Canadian governments to quickly get involved and offer humanitarian aid to Lebanon.
“I call upon the Canadian government to send disaster relief there to really help on the ground,” said Charlebois. “Prayers and thoughts on Facebook will do nothing.”
With files from The Canadian Press.