National Post

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Wednesday, September 29, 1999

Woman fled wartime Beirut for Canada
Stewart Bell
National Post

The Vancouver mother under police investigation after her baby survived a 47-metre plunge off a suspension bridge spent her youth in the Middle East before marrying a Quebec man who brought her to Canada 14 years ago.

Nadia Hama was born in a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria but moved with her family to Lebanon, a country she later fled when civil war broke out between rival religious factions, her first ex-husband said yesterday.

It was in Beirut, the Lebanese capital, that she met a travelling Quebecer named Michel Julien in 1982. They married and he sponsored her immigration to Canada. She arrived in 1985.

"She was a beautiful woman you know, and I really loved her, but, well, that part of my life is over," Mr. Julien said.

The marriage broke down within six months. Mr. Julien suspected she was seeing another man. The court papers list the grounds for divorce as adultery. She did not contest the divorce.

"We didn't have any children together, so it was kind of an amicable divorce," Mr. Julien said. Ms. Hama remarried four times.

"I met her, I was on vacation in the Middle East and we were together for about six months after she came here. I sponsored her for immigration and then I guess I figured afterward mostly what she wanted to do was to get her papers to get into the country. I did not realize that at the time, of course."

Mr. Julien was surprised to hear Ms. Hama was under police investigation. He said he had heard about the incident but had not known it was his former wife and had not recognized her in television news photos. But shown a recent photo of Ms. Hama, he confirmed it is the same person.

"I met her in Beirut. It was before the troubles there. She was living there, her family was there. Her passport was Palestinian but she was living in Beirut. Originally, she was born in a refugee camp in Syria, one of those Palestinian refugee camps there," he said.

"And afterwards, somehow they got their papers for Beirut and then when the troubles started there the family was expelled from Lebanon, so she lived there for a while and after she left me she went to Vancouver.

"I haven't spoken to her for years. I saw that picture [on television] and I did not even recognize her."

After the divorce, she worked briefly at the Ottawa office of the Arab League, a diplomatic mission. "She was working with me, she was a secretary with our office," said Ali Besbes, her friend and former co-worker.

"From what I know she is a very good person," he said. Told of the police investigation, he said: "Oh my god, that's not good news. She is not that type of person. When she was with us she was a very nice person from a high family."

Most recently, Ms. Hama was married to Kjeld Werbes, a Vancouver securities lawyer. The couple were wedded at a casino chapel in Las Vegas.

The marriage ended in 1998, just before the birth of Kaya Hama-Werbes, the baby who fell from the bridge.

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