Thursday, June 26, 2008

Canada's First Female Muslim MP

From "CNW Group":
"ORONTO, June 24 /CNW/ - "What drives me is social justice," says Yasmin Ratansi, the first Muslim female member of Parliament in Canadian history. "I do not like injustice. I do not like thuggery. I do not like bullying. I like peaceful resolution."

In "Public Interest," the Liberal MP for Don Valley East describes her lifelong fight for social justice, from the prejudice of Tanzania to the partisanship of Parliament Hill: her flight from compulsory intermarriage in Tanzania, her determination to succeed as an immigrant in Canada, and her current status as the chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women as a member of the Official Opposition.

A certified general accountant (CGA) by training, Yasmin's profile is accompanied by profiles of fellow CGA politicians Bruce Crozier, Ontario Liberal MPP for Essex, and Carl Zehr, the longstanding mayor of Kitchener, Ontario.

Did the media miss the story of Canada's first Muslim female member of Parliament? How did Yasmin Ratansi change the look of the CBC's hit comedy Little Mosque on the Prairie? What does this Ismaili-Canadian have to say about the immigrant experience in Canada?"

In the June - July 2008 issue of Statements, the bimonthly newsletter of the Certified General Accountants Association of Ontario, Ms Ratansi is profiled by Editor, Colin Ellis.

Here's a little snippet:
The Politics of Prejudice
"Yasmin Ratansi was born in 1951 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, father Abdullah and mother Sherbanu. Originally from India, the Ratansi family was part of a colonial diaspora of Indian immigrants to Africa, an ethnic group that many Africans still classify general terms as “Asian.” The family settled first on the island Zanzibar before moving to mainland Tanzania. Abdullah and Sherbanu’s seven children were third-generation Tanzanians when the post-colonial government of Tanzania began a disastrous flirtation with the politics of prejudice."

After fleeing Tanzania and studying in England, Ms Ratansi arrived in Canada. "With her accounting and financial skills, her community service, and her experience in both the private and public sectors, it was only natural that she would be asked to run for public office. In 1988 she ran as the federal Liberal candidate for Don Valley East and came within a narrow margin of defeating the incumbent Conservative. She served the party in a number of accounting and finance positions before winning election to the House of Commons in 2004. In 2006 she was re-elected as the member of Parliament for Don Valley East.

As a professional accountant her skills have been utilized on a number of standing committees, most notably public accounts, but also environment and sustainable development, human resources, skills development, social development and the status of persons with disabilities, and Canadian heritage. She has also served as the official Opposition critic for national revenue. While she notes that, as an accountant, you can too often be elected to accounting and financial positions, she admits to some surprise when Liberal leader Stephane Dion asked her to chair the standing committee on the status of women.

The first Muslim woman elected to the House of Commons, Yasmin is a member of the Ismaili faith, a branch of Islam that is the second largest in the Shia community. “I’ve been involved in ecumenical work with a number of different religious communities,” she says proudly, “including the Ismaili Council. I understand pluralism and I respect the point of view of others. It has held me in good stead when I go canvassing.”

Abdullah Ratansi died before his daughter embarked on her professional career, though Sherbanu Ratansi lived to see her daughter become a CGA. Proud proponents of education for young women, they would be proud to know that their daughter is not only the chair of the standing committee on the status of women, but is a pioneer in Canadian parliamentary history."

You can view the entire 4 page article at:
June - July 2008 Statements - pages 10 - 14

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