2nd Session, 43rd Parliament
Volume 152, Issue 48
Thursday, June 10, 2021
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, originally I had planned to deliver a statement today about Canada Day, where I would reflect on my twentieth year in the Senate and highlight how pluralism and multiculturalism are at the very heart of the Canadian identity. I was going to share the amazing journey of my 20 years in the Senate. Instead, I rise today to speak about the Afzaal family who left their London, Ontario, home on Sunday evening for a walk. They were senselessly murdered simply because they were Muslims.
A grandmother, mother, father and daughter were murdered in a horrific, hate-fuelled attack which has put a 9-year-old boy in hospital and has left him an orphan.
Honourable senators, I was sworn in as Canada’s first Muslim senator just one week after 9/11. I will be the first to admit that the weeks and months following 9/11 were incredibly difficult for Muslim Canadians. I remember Prime Minister Chrétien asking me to accompany him to an Ottawa mosque where he delivered the message to all Canadian Muslims that they were not accountable for the acts of a few members of their faith.
While many of us found comfort in Prime Minister Chrétien’s words, the truth is that Islamophobia is a very real problem as it was in 9/11, and it continues to be a real problem today.
Honourable senators, Islamophobia exists in Canada. Racism exists in Canada. Hatred exists in Canada. Fear of being attacked because of the colour of your skin exists in Canada. We were reminded of this when six men were gunned down and killed in a mosque in Quebec City. We were reminded of this when a man was stabbed to death outside his mosque in Rexdale. We were reminded of this on Sunday when the Afzaal family was murdered in what Prime Minister Trudeau has described as a terrorist attack motivated by hatred.
Honourable senators, when I heard about the attack, I immediately reached out to my Muslim colleagues in the Senate. During our exchange, Senator Ravalia shared this:
We are shattered and feel such a profound grief for the young boy and extended family who have lost so much.
The rise in hate crimes is indeed disconcerting. Our entire community is mourning and we appreciate you and so many others who have reached out.
Honourable senators, I’m exceptionally proud to be a Canadian Muslim. I truly believe that we live in the best country in the world, however we have a lot of work to do. We need to put an end to Islamophobia and xenophobia. We owe it to ourselves. We owe it to our children. And we owe it to 9-year-old Fayez Afzaal.
Honourable senators, my seven-year-old granddaughter just informed me that she is not going to tell her friends she’s Muslim because she is frightened. That is not the Canada you and I want to build. Thank you, senators.