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Edward Francis Arab to be honoured this Heritage Day

This Heritage Day, Nova Scotians will be honouring Lt. Edward Francis Arab. Edward was the eldest of Sadie and Louis Arab's five children, born on September 6, 1915 in Halifax.
Edward Francis Arab (1)
Lt. Edward Francis Arab

This Heritage Day, Nova Scotians will be honouring Lt. Edward Francis Arab.

Edward was the eldest of Sadie and Louis Arab's five children, born on September 6, 1915 in Halifax.

His father Louis immigrated here as a child with his family from Diman, Lebanon during Ottoman Rule, and many families from that village followed, settling here in Nova Scotia. Many of their descendants continue to live here today, including the MLA of Fairview-Clayton Park, Patricia Arab.

Patricia is related to Edward; her grandmother was Eddie's aunt, and her mother was his goddaughter.

"It was a place of opportunity, Halifax in particular, but it wasn't an overly diverse community so there were a lot of struggles," Patricia told NEWS 95.7 fill-in host Jordi Morgan.

"It's a standard immigration story. You leave corruption, or you leave poverty, or you leave a country that you can't move forward in to come somewhere new," she added. "It doesn't matter that you can't speak the language, or that you're not accustomed to the cultures, or you can't even find groceries that match what you used to make in your homeland, because that opportunity to become something and make something of yourself is so much stronger than all of those other comforts."

Edward went to Saint Patrick's Boys' School, and at the age of 16, he joined the Canadian Officer's Training Corp based out of Dalhousie University. 

After earning his Bachelor of Arts from Dal in 1935, he graduated with honours from the Dalhousie Law School in 1937. Patricia said he was the first person of Lebanese descent in Nova Scotia to do so.

He soon opened his own law firm, accepting many cases that addressed issues of prejudice and racism.

"In that entrepreneurial spirit that the Lebanese seem to exemplify, particularly here, he had many job offers but didn't want to work for someone else," Patricia explained. "So he started his law practice and primarily helped those who were disenfranchised."

"Those who other lawyers didn't think that their cases were valid, those who didn't have money to pay, those who came from ethnic minority groups," she added. "He wanted to help all of those who were disenfranchised and wanted to be a voice for them."

He quickly built up his reputation along with his practice and in 1938 he helped to found the Canadian Lebanon Society, serving as its first president. 

Arab signed up for the Canadian Infantry Corps in 1942, then deployed to Europe during the Second World War, arriving in France on September 3, 1944.

"At this point he had a successful debate career, he had been a boxer, he had gone to law school and graduated with honours, he had opened up a practice ... but really by the time he enlisted he felt it was his duty to do so and fight for our country," said Patricia.

Lt. Edward Francis Arab was killed on October 25, 1944 along with members of his regiment as they moved to liberate the Dutch town of Bergen op Zoom.

They are buried in that town's Canadian War Cemetery.

There's a street named after him in Halifax. Edward Arab Avenue is in the Westmount area. Several roads in that neighbourhood are named after Canadian veterans.

Nova Scotia's first Heritage Day took place in 2015, which celebrated Viola Desmond. At that time, the next seven honourees were announced, including Edward Francis Arab.

Patricia was close to Edward's brother, who passed away a few years ago.

"He knew that we were going to be honouring Eddie, but I'm just sad he never got to make it to 2021 to see everything that's being talked about and celebrated in his honour," she said.

Patricia Arab, along with Premier Stephen McNeil, Communities, Culture and Heritage Minister Suzanne Lohnes-Croft, Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Zach Churchill and Immigration Minister Lena Metlege Diab will participate in a virtual ceremony on Heritage Day to honour Lt. Edward Francis Arab. It can be watched through Facebook as of  9 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 15.

Meghan Groff

About the Author: Meghan Groff

Born in Michigan, raised in Ontario, schooled in Indiana and lives in Nova Scotia; Meghan is the editor for CityNews Halifax.
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