Report by Hafeeza Murji

The Hon. Chris Alexander_Student Table

Student Representatives pose with the Hon. Chris Alexander. Ethnic and Pluralism Studies students are Amartya Biswas (first from the right in the front row), David Martineau (third), and Hafeeza Murji (fourth).

It was an honour and a privilege to attend the Canada Club Event featuring the Honourable Chris Alexander, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, on Friday March 7, 2014. Invited as representatives of the University of Toronto’s prestigious Munk School of Global Affairs; nine of my colleagues (including myself), participated in the event and luncheon sponsored generously by Scotiabank. The talk from Minister Alexander was both moving and inspirational and touched everyone at our table.

Minister Alexander spoke warmly of Canada’s ongoing commitment to being an inclusive nation. Echoing the sentiments of his Highness the Aga Khan, Minister Alexander took the time to highlight the underpinnings that enable Canada to be one of the most successful civic societies in the world today. These foundations include Canada’s commitment to pluralism, embracing meritocracy as one of our country’s core value and living with a cosmopolitan ethic. Furthermore, Minister Alexander stated that: “One of the key elements to the success, prosperity and social harmony of our country is that we are united Canadian citizens; not necessarily by our common origins, but rather by a pledge of mutual responsibility and a shared commitment to values and traditions rooted in our history.” These are words which truly help to capture the fabric of Canadian citizenship and what it means to each of us to ‘be Canadian’ today.

In honour of International Women’s Day, the Minister spoke to some of the phenomenal immigrant women who helped to shape many fundamental Canadian institutions such as Irene Parlby, a founding member of the Famous Five. He also underscored the intolerance of Canada towards violence against women. Sadly as the Minister pointed out, too many women continue to fall victim to barbaric practices such as female genital mutilation, honour-based crimes, and forced marriages. As such, more attention and resources will be going towards Canadian settlement services and implementing better guidelines and training for frontline officers confronting cases of abuse and neglect concerning women.

I felt a strong sense of pride listening to Minister Alexander, both as a Canadian and as a young woman. It was a wonderful way to commemorate this year’s Women’s Day, and I feel so fortunate to have been a part of it!

Hafeeza Murji is currenty in the MA program at CERES, and is part of the Ethnic and Pluralism Studies Collaborative Graduate Program.

We would like to thank Alison Wood, Communications Coordinator at the Canada Club of Toronto, for arranging the student table at this event. Alison is herself a graduate of the Ethnic and Pluralism Studies program.