Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 41st Parliament,

Volume 148, Issue 24

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Honourable Noel A. Kinsella, Speaker

The Late Gulbanu Sherali Bandali Jaffer

Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to my parents, especially my mother, and to all your mothers. My mother, Gulbanu Sherali Bandali Jaffer, was known to all of us as Mama. She cocooned us with her love and was the sunshine in our lives.

Mama was the first girl in East Africa to pass London Matriculation, which is the equivalent of university entrance, and then she went on to be a mathematician. She was the youngest principal in her school. Often her students were older than she was. She married my father, Sherali Bandali Jaffer, a politician, and as a young bride moved to Uganda. She very quickly embraced my father’s work. With his help, she provided sanctuary to unwed mothers in our home. My parents have over 75 children that they have looked after or have been godparents to.

Mama never gave up her love for studying. She continued to study and became a social worker and probation officer in Kampala, Uganda. The Ugandan government sent her for further studies to London, England, and to Kent University in Ohio. While she studied, my father cared for us all.

As a social worker, I have vivid memories of how Mama used to go from shop to shop every month and convince shopkeepers to give her food. Her small Volkswagen was always full of food that she was going to deliver to the needy. Often, when I was with her, I would hear the shopkeepers saying that they had given her food last month. She would, with a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye, politely say, “But we have to eat every day. The children are hungry.” She often browbeat the merchants into helping her if she did not succeed any other way. They could never say no to her.

As a probation officer, she would act as if every young child who was in trouble with the law was her own. Justice Lule would often say to us that Mama would not take no for an answer. She would always convince the justices to have the young people be personally supervised by her and not sent to prison. Many people now tell us that she changed their lives by standing up for them.

Mama was one of the first people who exposed Idi Amin’s atrocities. She told the world how he was torturing and hammering people to death. Mama was fearless.

My parents had to flee Uganda before the Asian exodus because of their activism, and they lost all their possessions and assets. Mama never complained of the finery she had lost. All she said was that she wished she had her large pots and pans so she could easily cook for our large family.

When Mama arrived in Canada, she was immediately given accreditation to work here. The day she got her accreditation she said to me, “You go back to school and get your accreditation. I will stay at home and raise your son Azool.”

With the help of Senator St. Germain and former Minister Whelan, my parents are egg farmers in Abbotsford, B.C.

As they were not able to return to Uganda, they started boarding schools in India and made it a point to encourage girls to receive an education. Today, many of those girls live around the world and support their families.

My parents returned to Uganda when they were able. The last trip they returned because they wanted to finish their work of placing computers in girls’ schools. They were obsessed with making sure that Ugandan girls were given the same opportunities as girls in Canada.

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Mama received many accolades at her funeral, including one that was provided by Uganda’s foreign minister, who stated she will be remembered for her selfless service to the young and underprivileged.

Mama has left an amazing husband, six children, five children-in-law, 15 grandchildren and one great-grandson.

Her death has brought darkness into our lives. We cannot hug and call her. For those of you who can, call your mother now. I can never hug or call my mother again.

 

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