Noteworthy people and performances

DECEMBER 20, 2021

  • Birth of baby boy heralds even more good news for family fleeing war
  • QB’s Major Lee commands Canadian Forces deployment to BC flood, landslide disasters
  • Remembering Colm Harty, an engaged citizen of the world
  • Plus music and a good read for the winter holidays

Birth of baby boy heralds even more good news for family fleeing war

A plane touched down at Nanaimo Airport, the gateway to Vancouver Island, on a chilly December evening one year ago. Two exhausted, but elated parents and their two young children emerged from Arrivals into the warm presence of their immediate family — from whom they had been separated for five long years. The surging wave of the coronavirus pandemic was the least of their concerns. They were safe. Second Opinion QB reported on the family’s arrival on December 9, 2020, and their harrowing journey fleeing the war in Syria.

Hesham, Nour and their children, Fatima, Mustafa and baby Wissam. December 2021

Six weeks ago, in late October 2021, Hesham Alhbiyou and his wife Nour Alebaid, along with their children, daughter Fatima and son Mustafa, were thrilled to welcome the arrival of their third child, a beautiful baby boy named Wissam. More good news followed, and then a shock.

The family had been sponsored by a private group, under the auspices of St. Mark’s Anglican Church in Qualicum Beach and co-sponsor Samar Al Hbayo, who sought to bring her brother and his family to Canada, just as she and her family were given refuge here four years earlier. Samar, her husband Bader Al Faraj and their three children, then aged 10, 5 and 2, had arrived at Nanaimo airport just before Christmas 2017 speaking no English and experiencing snow for the first time.

An interesting note about the family’s surnames. “Arabic women keep their maiden names” when they marry, says Jennifer Roberts, a member of the volunteer group assisting the family. “But, Samar’s last name is different from her brother’s last name because of differences between the translations at the Canadian embassy in Lebanon and the embassy in Turkey” when they emigrated to Canada.

Samar’s biggest job when she first arrived was to help her family, now safe from war, navigate the many unfamiliar requirements of life in Canada. Soon though, Samar’s thoughts turned to her own siblings, scattered around and beyond Syria, also seeking a life without war and terror.

Hesham’s sister Samar with her husband Bader and their daughter Zeinab.

After the obligatory 14-day quarantine, Hesham and Nour immersed themselves in their new life in Canada. The children quickly enrolled in school, Fatima now in second grade and Mustafa in kindergarten, while their parents started English language classes. Eager to get his driver’s license but stalled because ICBC had suspended road tests for six months, Hesham nevertheless sailed through his driver’s license on the first attempt, not a surprise since he was a professional truck driver in Syria before resettling in Canada. He soon began getting part-time work, and three days after the birth of their little baby boy in October, Hesham landed a full-time job.  

“We often look at the bigger picture (89 million refugees and displaced persons worldwide) and are overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the problem,” says Terry Roberts, “We all can make a difference, one family at a time.” Roberts, co-chair of the Hesham Refugee Sponsorship Group (HRSG), and his wife Jennifer have been invaluable allies and become good friends of the two families, along with the other HRSG members and supporters in the community.

The sponsorship group is now raising money to help the family with one of their biggest, and unexpected, expenses — dental work. People wishing to assist the young family can do so by donating online at or send a cheque to St. Mark’s Anglican Church at 138 Hoylake Rd W, Qualicum Beach BC V9K 1K3 (put “HRSG” on the memo line of the cheque).

Now the shock, but it is a joyous one.

Just a few days ago, on December 18, 2021, Samar and her brother Hesham learned that their sister Reema and her children finally entered Turkey after years of unimaginable horror and despair living through war and its still raging after-effects.

When the war in Syria began in 2011, Reema and her husband were farmers. The family’s livelihood was destroyed in the war. Her husband (a civilian) was killed in the lawless, warring violence. Reema and her children were jailed. Yes, jailed.

Now that Reema and her children have finally escaped years of terror and fled to Turkey, another long journey starts, the one to rebuild their lives and plan for their future.

The gateway to Vancouver Island is also a gateway to a life of peace and promise. Today, Samar hopes to speak with her sister Reema for the first time since she is now living in safe haven. Imagine the conversation.

In words and in song
Australian-British comedian and pop singer Tim Minchin. Click image to hear concert recorded November 9, 2011 at the Jerome L. Greene Performance Space in Manhattan. Photo – The Guardian

Of the 2021 Giller Prize winning book, the jury said: “Amid all the anger and confusion surrounding the global refugee crisis, Omar El Akkad’s What Strange Paradise paints a portrait of displacement and belonging that is at once unflinching and tender. In examining the confluence of war, migration and a sense of settlement, it raises questions of indifference and powerlessness and, ultimately, offers clues as to how we might reach out empathetically in a divided world.” The author is a Canadian and well-known rock climber accordiing to Gripped – the climbing magazine.

As part of a special live concert, Australian-British comedian and pop singer Tim Minchin performs his song White Wine in the Sun. It’s been called a “contrarian carol” and a Christmas song for non-believers. “All the lines about jetlag, disorientation, isolation and distrust of institutionalised religion,” writes The Guardian. “There’s little artifice here, just universal emotion laid bare. Minchin acknowledges the contradictions inherent in celebrating a festival he doesn’t believe in, and moves on. He turns it into a positive.”

QB’s Major Lee commands Canadian Forces deployment to BC flood, landslide disasters

The unprecedented “atmospheric river” that flooded the Sumas Prairie near Abbotsford, BC, and destroyed homes, communities and highways further into the BC interior in mid-November 2021, also caused the deaths of five people, rendered thousands homeless and ruined scores of businesses. The Canadian Armed Forces were quickly mobilized. Today, five weeks after the devastation, the dike at Abbotsford has been repaired and the Coquihalla Highway is expected to open to commercial traffic.

Major Jaemok Lee (R) commander of IRU Vanguard Company (Edmonton) and Land Task Force Engineer for the disaster mission conferring with other members of the reconnaissance team in Abbotsford, BC. Photo –

Leading the deployment of Canadian Armed Forces in response to this unprecedented natural disaster was Major Jaemok Lee, the Land Task Force Engineer of this specialized response team.

Major Lee, who grew up in Qualicum Beach and attended Kwalikum Secondary School, now commands the CAF’s Immediate Response Unit (IRU) Vanguard Company stationed in Edmonton.

Major Jaemok Lee is the son of Connie and Seung Lee, well known in the community as the proprietors of Kim’s Store on QB’s Memorial Avenue for over 20 years. Both of their children are on the front lines in major disasters; the couple’s daughter, Dr. Youngeun Lee, is an emergency room physician in Britain.

The B.C. provincial government announced a state of emergency Wednesday, November 17th, the same day the federal government confirmed receipt of their request for federal support. At the announcement of military assistance, federal Minister of National Defence Anita Anand said the hundreds of “deployed personnel will remain as self-sustaining as possible. They are bringing as much of their own food, equipment and supplies to the area as they can right now.” She said the CAF’s support included evacuations, support for critical supply chains, assessing the impact of flooding, planning relief efforts, and protecting critical infrastructure like roads and property. Anand said the department has mobilized a reconnaisance team to assess the situation alongside provincial officials.

Major Lee welcoming troops arriving on Hercules C-130 aircraft from Edmonton. Photo –

That same Wednesday night, a military reconnaissance team was flown in to assess the damage. Gen. Wayne D. Eyre, acting chief of the Defence Staff, interviewed by Global News, said the exact roles of the 240-member Edmonton contingent were still being determined. “Those details will be worked out by the reconnaissance team,” he said, adding they will bring trucks and any additional capabilities that the reconnaissance team determines are necessary.

As the mission’s Land Task Force Engineer, Major Jaemok Lee was a key member of the reconnaissance team.

Major Lee told CTV that the deployed CAF contingent include “some of the command and control elements that you would see in a headquarters, so we have people embedded within the provincial emergency operations centres, being able to liaise with the different provincial government agencies as well as external agencies that are helping in this disaster.”

Proud father Seung Lee, Kim’s Store, Qualicum Beach, BC.

In an interview with CBC Vancouver radio host Stephen Quinn, Major Lee said the objective of the reconnaissance team was “to see how we can be best value-added to the authorities.” While flood mitigation at the Abbotsford levee was their first major assignment, Lee said the troops were also ferrying “medical supplies, food, and water to remote communities that the province couldn’t get to.” The CAF were also conducting “route reconnaissance tasks, heading out in our vehicles to determine which roads may be closed, which may be open to provide more situational awareness for the Province,” said Lee. Listen to full interview here.

The Vancouver Sun reported, over the past month, 748 military personnel and nine aircraft were assigned to help with the floods. Their work included filling and placing sandbags to protect homes and businesses, constructing a so-called tiger dam to stop the damage on Highway 1, and delivering more than 31,000 kilograms of food, vaccines and other supplies to Kamloops, Chilliwack, Kelowna, Vernon and Merritt.

“This is exactly what we signed up to do, to help Canadians in their time of need,” said Major Lee. “We’re deployed here to do whatever we can to be able to support the provincial and local authorities to get this untangled.”

An inspirational story about a young woman from Rapa Nui who left success on the world stage as a classical pianist to build a music school on her beloved island home, aka Easter Island.
WATCH video here – PBS News Hour May 11, 2021

A tribute to Colm Harty, engaged citizen of the world

It was a shock to many people when they learned of Colm Harty’s death in August 2021 caused by a hit-and-run accident in Qualicum Beach. A vigorous bon vivant right up until his untimely death at age 80, Colm was beloved by many in QB and around the world. Scottish-born and raised in Ireland, Colm was adopted at birth into a loving extended family. He spent his early adult years in Liverpool soaking up the emerging Merseybeat that spawned the Beatles.

Colm Harty

Colm emigrated to Halifax and later moved to the United States, following the love of his life and eventual partner of 56 years, Judy. The couple returned to Canada, where Colm embarked on a 30-year career as a teacher in Hamilton, Ontario. He worked with at risk children and students with special needs and was one of the first educators in Ontario charged with integrating special needs children into the general student population. After retirement, the much-travelled couple discovered Qualicum Beach and, in 2002, decided to make QB their new home.

His family recounts that Colm, an avid reader, hosted an annual “Bloomsday” party every June 16 (the date on which Joyce’s novel “Ulysses” takes place). The celebration, held at the Harty home, was comprised of readings from Colm’s well-worn copy of the novel, accompanied by appropriate Irish libations. The Harty household, wherever they were living, was often the scene of neighborhood gatherings, parties on Christmas and St Patrick’s Day, as well as assorted other celebrations.

Collection of published Colm Harty letters

Colm Harty will also be remembered as a thoughtful and engaged resident of Qualicum Beach. We reprise some of Colm’s published letters here that demonstrate his broad range of interests, his foresight and his humanity. Not surprisingly, Colm Harty was one of the first people to notice, over a year ago, that QB’s benches were “mysteriously disappearing.”

Nov 28, 2020 – Replacing locally made park benches with plastic

Our locally made park benches are mysteriously disappearing.

They are being replaced by cast iron, coated in plastic, benches made by a company based in Maryland U.S.A. Could we not use some of the hundreds of trees razed in the past few years to have new ones made locally? Will our new plastic playing fields be lined by plastic bleachers?

The world-wide love affair with plastic has cooled in many locations but is still smoldering passionately in Q.B. it seems. Some lovely old growth trees were razed at the end of Burnham Road and were replaced by the Town with a panoramic plastic picture of tree trunks. It is now flapping aimlessly in the breeze.

Colm Harty, Qualicum Beach

Feb 19, 2013 – Regional stereotyping no joke

Thank you Kim Hammond for your wonderful letter to the editor on derogatory cracks against Newfoundlanders Feb. 14 edition of The NEWS.

I am blessed with an Irish accent and am often mistaken for a Newfoundlander, which I find very flattering.

In our area, we are dominated by an age group that includes many people who find racism funny. Fortunately, Canadians under 50 rarely use ethnic stereotyping in their conversation and are generally more enlightened in this respect than previous generations.

There are exceptions of course. Recently, I attended an event at which a person announced a St. Patrick`s Day musical event. He followed this up with a racist Irish “joke.” The burden of the crack was that Irish people are lazy, unintelligent and dishonest. I have heard this same type of joke at various times about Newfoundlanders, Polish, blacks, natives, East Indians, Mediterraneans and anyone else not “lucky” enough to have the teller’s own ancestry.

Racial, ethnic, national and regional stereotyping is not funny.

Colm Harty, Qualicum Beach

Jan 9, 2021 – Councillor Filmer’s leave of absence, Council conduct

Although recent events at QB Town Council may seem chaotic, they were clearly heralded in the initial meetings of the new Council. Among their first priorities was the ditching of Robert’s Rules of Order, sponsored by the mayor [Brian Wiese] and the former mayor [Teunis Westbroek], with the advice of the CAO [Daniel Sailland]. [Instead,] Robert’s Rules was replaced by a few loose suggestions on the conduct of meetings.

Robert’s Rules is a universally respected and legally recognised manual on parliamentary procedure. It defends the rights and duties of the majority while respecting the rights and integrity of the minority. The disbandment of formal rules enhances the power of the controlling faction while diminishing the minority.

Henry Robert grew up in the shadow of the American civil war and was acutely aware of the need for order and careful procedure in the protection of parliamentary democracy. He wrote “Where there is no law, but every man [sic] does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real democracy.”

Notwithstanding Robert’s Rules or any other parliamentary manual, no matter how carefully a set of rules is observed, situations can arise where a small group or an individual can become isolated and victimized. The only remedy for this is to hope that human decency will prevail. In the longer term the ballot box can provide corrective action.

WATCH video of Gordon Lightfood, circa 1967, performing Song for a Winter’s Night for a live audience in an intimate theatre setting.

Colm Harty, Qualicum Beach

A musical tribute — Song for a Winter’s Night

In tribute, we think Colm might enjoy this recording of an early live performance by a Canadian musician who got his start at about the same time as Colm was emigrating to Halifax.

Here’s Gordon Lightfoot performing his Song for a Winter’s Night, circa 1967, before a small, rapt audience. Excellent sound for the age of the video, thankfully, because Lightfoot’s voice is exquisite here.