WLCU | British Columbia Council

Early Lebanese Pioneers 
Brief Background on the Early Lebanese Pioneers and Families and the Formation of the Lebanese Canadian Society of British Columbia. 

Many families arrived from Lebanon in the late 1880’s and established their homes in the lower mainland areas; some of these people were R.A. Ray, Charlie Ray, Elias Ray, K.E. Ray and their wives, the Brady’s, the Sabas, the Shumases, the Naaooms, the mussallems, the Haddads, the Gillettes and many more who settled in this area.  Like the Brady’s, the Kalley’s arrived here in the year 1911.

These groups of families formed the first social club of Lebanese approximately in the year of 1912. They were lead by the chairman Rashid Swad as they met on the 19th floor of the old world building now known as the Sun Tower at the Corner of Beattle and Pender streets.

They became quite active in the local affairs of the City and the province.  For example, Sal Mussallem became Mayor of Haney in B.C. and his son became a member of the BC legislation.  Many of us headed other organizations throughout B.C.

In the following years, many of our young people went to the University of British Columbia becoming engineers, lawyers, doctors as well as business people. 

In 1965, Mr. R. A. Ray being then the patriarch of the Lebanese families of the lower mainland prevailed upon me Fred Kalley to form the nucleus of a Lebanese Society.   In the summer of that year, I called upon several friends and relatives to a meeting at my home.  At this meeting, we put out thoughts together along with our wives to make plans.  I was delegated to come up with an outline for a constitution and by-laws for the Society. 

To the best of my memory the people present were Bud Ray, Vi Smith (Shumas), Fred Shumas, John and Joe Fayad, Herb Ray. George Gareb, my cousins Elma and Smelia Anton also attended and George Ray   and please forgive me if I left out any other names.  At out first meeting, we appointed Vi Smith as Secretary to record minutes and to keep our thoughts on record.  Many other meetings followed and finally we called by phone and we wrote to other Lebanese of B.C., whom we knew then, to attend the inaugural meeting and the election of officers.  At that meeting, the first directors of the Lebanese Canadian Society of British Columbia were elected and the Society was formed. 

Vi kept records and dates of other meetings and records of other social activities that followed through the years.

Many thanks to our wives who helped us through these years and we could not have done it without them.  As I said during the fund raising dinner at the founder’s honorary ceremony during the Lebanese Cultural Day, it gives me great pleasure now to see that our society has thrived over the years and that we have established a link to our home country, to our new country and to our community.  I would like to thank all the volunteers and the present directors who organized this event and to every member of the society and supporter who volunteered his/her time to make the society what it is today.