Faces in the Crowd – Reaching Out at Home and Abroad.

Posted on September 29, 2016 under Faces in the Crowd with one comment

Lena Diab

Honorable Lena M. Diab


“There’s never enough time. I wish that time would slow down so that I could do more. There’s still more that I can do.”

Meet Lena Metlege Diab.

The oldest of six children, Lena was born in Halifax, the daughter of immigrants from Lebanon who came to Canada in search of better opportunities. In 1968, she and one of her sisters were sent back to Lebanon to live with their grandparents and begin their elementary schooling.

The Lebanese Civil War began in 1975, and even though she and the family were safe in the north, fear and worry permeated the entire country. As things worsened in 1976, Lena’s father decided that it was time to get everyone out of Lebanon. They packed up only the essentials and escaped the country by boat, crossing the Mediterranean Sea. The journey was rough and sea sickness was rampant.

Lena resumed her schooling in Halifax, attending St. Agnes School. She knew very little English at first. This was a time when not everybody was comfortable with people from other countries who looked different and spoke an unfamiliar language. Junior High was a tough time for Lena, but many of the barbs she received didn’t sting too much because she didn’t know what they were saying!

Getting a good education was a priority for Lena`s family and she threw herself into her schooling with a vigor and passion that she exudes to this very day. She became an honours student and mastered English and French. She took part in many extracurricular activities and was a member of St. Patrick’s High School Student Council and the Yearbook Committee.

Even from an early age, Lena wanted to become a lawyer so that she could help people. She received her undergraduate degree in only 2 years and went on to get a Master’s Degree in Public Administration. During this time she got married and started a family.  Law school at Dalhousie University soon followed. One of her children was born 14 days before she started her law degree! By the time she graduated and had completed her articling she had three young children (all under 4 years), and her fourth child arrived in 2000.

Things weren’t easy, but her hard work and determination and the support of family and colleagues enabled her to practice law. She chose a firm that was close to home. “I needed to be close to my children. No matter how important law was, my family always came first.”

In 2006, the family went to Lebanon to visit her husband’s family and to commemorate the life of her recently deceased father in law. A few days after arriving, bombs suddenly and unexpectedly started to fall in South Lebanon.   This marked the start of the 34 day war known as the “July War.” Lebanon is a small country and every citizen felt the impact. The family was notified by the Canadian Embassy to evacuate immediately. Once again, they were forced to travel by boat as airports are typically one of the first things to be bombed during war. It was utter chaos at the seaport. Thousands of people stood in blistering heat with no food, water or toilet facilities. And to make matters worse, they didn’t know where they were going. They spent 25 hours on a boat staffed with a Turkish crew whose language they didn’t understand. They spent some time in a large stadium and within 24 hours, were on a plane back to Montreal. The family was traumatized and it took years before everyone got over this terrifying experience.

When Lena wasn’t practicing law and attending to a busy family, she volunteered in her community for every imaginable organization. In 2013, she decided to run for public office. “I had a deep desire to help people and I wanted Nova Scotia to do better socially and economically.” She won her seat in Halifax/Armdale and was appointed to the provincial cabinet in October of 2013. She holds the distinction of being the first female Attorney General for the province of Nova Scotia. She held the role of both the Justice Minister and the Minister of Immigration. Immigration became her exclusive portfolio in July 2015.

Last fall the body of a lifeless 3 year old Syrian boy lying on a beach evoked a response around the world. For many Canadians, this was a call to action. For Lena Diab, the memories of her own family’s brush with war came flooding back. She has an intimate understanding of the refugee crisis and is in a unique position, with her Justice and Immigration roles, to help people.  She is very effective in ensuring that new Nova Scotians, who are trying to make their way in an unfamiliar country, have the resources they need to succeed.

She is very well respected by her peers. “As someone whose family immigrated to Nova Scotia,  Minister Diab has seen first-hand much of what our most recent citizens have experienced, and you can tell how deeply she cares by the passion she brings to her role as Immigration Minister,” says a fellow cabinet minister.

Lena’s days are incredibly busy but there is always time to curl up with her two grandchildren … one of the best known stress reducers!

She says that her work in government is very rewarding, helping long-time residents and newcomers alike to fulfill their dreams and navigate the system. “I love helping people and I have worked very hard for the benefit of my family, my community and my province.”

She admits to having no regrets … other than the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day!


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