I was saddened to learn of the loss of Walid Bahlawan. He was a man whom one only has to meet once and yet is a friend for life. I had the opportunity to meet him when he visited our farm some years ago with a mutual friend. He had read our Dossier on Palestine and we had an animated discussion about his homeland and the current struggle of his people. He appreciated the beauty of nature and asked informed questions about the methods and yield of agriculture in the area. I was not surprised Walid had become a communist after emigrating to Canada, as it is little discussed how many Palestinian workers and peasants did so during their heroic fight for national liberation in the 1940s. I heard later that he had expressed interest in a return visit which unfortunately never materialized. Here is a poignant tribute to Walid from CPC (M-L):
With great sorrow, the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) informs you that our comrade Walid Bahlawan passed away on May 29, at the Trillium Health Centre’s Intensive Care Unit in Mississauga, of COVID-19. The Party expresses its deepest condolences to Walid’s son, his immediate and extended family, his fellow workers, his community and comrades.
Walid was a proud Palestinian whose family was driven from their homeland during Al Nakba in 1948. On April 24, 1956, along with nine other young workers and their households, he landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia, part of the first group of Palestinian refugees permitted to enter Canada as a result of the Government of Canada’s agreement reached in 1955 to admit 100 displaced Palestinians into Canada.
Walid was assigned to settle in Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay), Ontario where he became an industrial worker known for his skills and hard work. He later worked in Marathon, Ontario in the pulp and paper mills for eight years. The difficult living and working conditions for those workers were such that their lives were reduced to working, eating, sleeping and nothing else.
Around 1964 he moved to Mississauga, where he spent the rest of his life. He worked as a mechanic and maintenance worker at the Texaco Oil Refinery and later as a municipal worker for the City of Toronto at the Queensway Waste Management Transfer and Processing Facility in Etobicoke, until his retirement.
Through his relations at work, Walid came to know about the Party’s historic and principled stand in defence of the rights of the Palestinian people. He then joined the Party in action in defence of the rights of the Palestinian people as well as for the affirmation of the rights of the working class and people in this country. An avid reader of the Party’s publications, he participated in their dissemination and always supported the work financially. He took part in the Party’s discussions and functions, doing his part with a sense of duty and also with great joy to make sure they were a success. His participation in the celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution held in Mississauga in November 2017 was for him a particularly proud moment to honour this great achievement of the communist and workers’ movement in the 20th century.
Wahid got married after moving to Mississauga and had a daughter and son. To his and his family’s sorrow, his wife died of cancer 40 years ago aged only 45. He was also pre-deceased by his daughter, also a great tragedy for any family.
Wahid will be laid to rest beside his wife and sister at Springcreek Cemetery in Mississauga on June 3. He will be dearly remembered and sorely missed.