Open Letter To Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr.Pierre Pettigrew, from ten Lebanese Canadian Organizations addressing their concerns in light of his forthcoming trip to the Middle East

February 6/2005

To: The Honorable, Pierre Pettigrew
Foreign Affairs Minister Of Canada

Dear, Mr. Pettigrew
Before the start of your forthcoming official trip to Jordan, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, Lebanon and Syria from February 6 to 12, 2005, on behalf of organizations and individuals of the Lebanese Canadian Community who strongly believe in, and advocate for a free, sovereign, independent, multi-cultural, secular and democratic Lebanon, we would like to share with
you the following concerns and perspectives on ways and means to end the status quo of the Syrian occupation of our homeland Lebanon:

- Canada is the only Western country that did not declare yet a clear stance on UN Resolution 1559. Meanwhile, all Canada's allies, including the US, England, Australia, France and the European countries have strongly supported the resolution and are
peacefully pressuring Baathist Syria and the Syrian-installed regime in Beirut to implement it. We urge the Canadian government to promptly declare an unambiguous stance on this resolution. The time is now appropriate to give the Syrian regime the blunt and straightforward message that its ongoing occupation of Lebanon is not accepted by the Canadian people and government.

-The fundamental human rights of the Lebanese people have been violated and infringed upon under the rule of the current Syrian-dominated Lebanese government. These violations are well documented by the US State Department's annual reports and by each and every international human rights organization. Members of political opposition groups who oppose the Syrian
occupation are routinely arrested and persecuted as they often engage in legitimate political activities critical of the authorities. They are detained incommunicado, sometimes for weeks on end, which puts them at greater risk of torture and ill-treatment.
Confessions extracted under duress have often been used as the main evidence in trials of political detainees. Former detainees at the Lebanese Ministry of Defense Detention Center and Syrian jails have stated that they were routinely tortured during
interrogation. Methods of torture frequently used include severe beating, food and sleep deprivation and hanging by the wrists which are tied behind the back (known as Ballanco).

- The Canadian government has a moral and ethical obligation to state to its people and to the whole world that the Lebanese regime does not represent the Lebanese people. Rather, it is the latest in a long line of puppet regimes that have been installed by the Syrian dictatorship since October 1990 when the Syrian army violently completed its occupation of the whole
country and forced its legitimate government into exile. The Syrian regime, acting through proxy Lebanese officials, politicians and members of the clergy elite, has converted Lebanon into a haven for local, regional and international terrorist groups and
organizations that preach, promote and practice fanaticism, hatred, sectarianism, terrorism and violence. During your visit to Syria and Lebanon, we urge you to check on the horrific Syrian detention centers where hundreds of Lebanese prisoners of
conscience have been arbitrarily imprisoned for years without any judiciary justifications and whose existence is constantly being denied by the Syrian authorities. We suggest you meet with Lebanon's NGOs, and in particular with "SOLIDE" whose founder, Mr. Ghazi Aad, can update you on the ongoing dilemma of hundreds of Lebanese citizens arbitrarily detained in
Syrian jails, while the Beirut regime refuses even to recognize their existence. Meet also with Lebanon's university students and let them tell you how the regime deals with freedoms and human rights.

- We urge the Canadian government to support Lebanese opposition groups and parties in their peaceful strive to secure the recovery of Lebanese sovereignty, the evacuation of all foreign forces from Lebanon, the dismantling and banning of all terrorist groups and organizations from Lebanese soil and the implementation of UN resolutions 1559. We ask you to encourage the Beirut regime to facilitate the unconditional and safe return to Lebanon of former Prime Minister General Michel Aoun presently in exile, and the immediate release of Lebanese Forces leader, Dr. Samir Geagea.

- While in occupied Lebanon, please pay a visit to South Lebanon. See how Hezbollah has erected its own state there, sabotaged the peace process, nurtured feelings of hatred and rejection of others, and how it has replaced the country's army in patrolling the border with Israel. Visit also the Palestinian refugee camps where the Lebanese authorities have no presence
at all. Under Syrian control and protection, these camps have become a haven for hate schools, drug trafficking, fanaticism, terrorism, crime and all sorts of illicit conduct. Speak to the ordinary Lebanese who endure extreme hardship and whose
one-third live below the poverty level while another third (1.4 million) was forced to emigrate because of the presence of 1.5 million illegal Syrian workers who fully control Lebanon's labor market. Ask the Lebanese people if the Beirut regime appointed by the Syrian occupier actually represents their hopes, aspirations, free will or choice. We also urge you to
check on the Lebanese judiciary, which has become so corrupt due to Syrian influence and the continuous interference by the Lebanese regime in its affairs.

- Syria has constantly refused to exchange embassies with Lebanon since the 1940s when the two countries became independent from the mandatory control of France under the sponsorship of the League of Nations. This is consistent with a Syrian rejection of Lebanon's right to exist as an independent and sovereign nation. This is simply unacceptable in this
day and age. The argument that the Syrian occupation of Lebanon is a matter between those two countries is as absurd as blaming the victim for the crime. Syria has even refused to carry out any re-deployment as envisioned by the "Taef Accord" that was forced on the Lebanese people. Syrian domination over Lebanese policies and political leaders is at the root of the
Lebanese government's failure to press Syria for a withdrawal of its occupying forces. In addition to its armed forces, Syria maintains a massive intelligence service presence in Lebanon to enforce its control over the Lebanese people.

We advise the Canadian government to deliver all financial help allocated to Lebanon through Lebanese humanitarian, health, educational and cultural NGO's, and not through the Lebanese government where corruption is rampant.

Dear Mr. Pettigrew, we wish you a safe and productive trip. We trust your judgment and wisdom, and accordingly we encourage this forthcoming visit, especially to both Syria and occupied Lebanon.

*Robert Hanna/ Council of the Lebanese Canadian Organizations (COLCO)
*Wlliam Kassi/Lebanese Information Centre - Canada - (LIC-Canada)
*George Chamoun/Action For Lebanon, Canada – (ALC)
*Maroun Aoun/ Canadian Lebanese cultural club – (CLCC)
*Charbel Barakat/The World Lebanese Organization, Canada -(WLO)
*Camille Saade/ Phoenician Club of Mississauga – (PCM)
*Camille Bhersafi/ The Canadian Lebanese Christian Heritage Club - (CLCHC)
*Toni Muwanis/Canadian Phoenician Community Services Club – (CPCSC)
*Edmond El-Chidiac/ Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation - (CLHRF)
*Elias Bejjani/ Canadian Lebanese Coordinating Council - (LCCC)