When Humanity Prevails: Prime Minister Trudeau to Welcome Malala to Canada
As a citizen of the world, I consider many countries my home!
As a naturalized American citizen, forced to flee Iran as a young girl, and a grateful refugee who found support in Germany, then the U.S.; I am also often in Canada, where beloved members of my family live.
While I am deeply troubled and saddened by the way refugees are being politicized and too often demeaned, with an increasing number of attempted travel bans driven by religious bias, I was thrilled to read the announcement a few days ago that the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be welcoming the courageous and inspiring Malala Yousafzai to Canada later this week, making her an honorary Canadian citizen.
“Ms. Yousafzai’s courageous response to those who threatened her life, and her advocacy for girls’ education, has inspired many millions of people around the world,” Trudeau said in a press release. “Her story is one of determination and dignity, and Canada is proud to call her an honorary citizen of this great country.”
The 19-year-old Yousafzai will also become the youngest person to address Canada’s parliament and just the sixth honorary Canadian citizen of all time given this great honor. Other great leaders, including Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama, have graced Canada by joining in their ranks. Canada is a beautiful country, with a longstanding tradition of welcoming all, regardless of race, religion, and nationality, and with Prime Minister Trudeau at the helm, this tradition continues.
As we all know, five years ago, Malala was shot in the head in Pakistan by a member of the Taliban for simply seeking equal rights for girls to learn and to attend school. With the help of her family, including her courageous and loving father, after recovering from her wounds, she started the Malala Foundation together with my dear friend Shiza Shahid, in order to advocate for girls’ education worldwide.
On April 12, Malala will speak with the Canadian Prime Minister about “girls’ empowerment through education and how they can actively contribute to the sustainable development of their communities and countries” while also addressing parliament and accepting the rare, honorary citizenship.
In the press release, she praised Canada for its openness to accepting refugees:
“The people of Canada are leading the world in their response to the refugee crisis. I am honoured by Parliament’s invitation and look forward to visiting this great nation of heroes.”
Since November 2015, Canada has accepted more than 40,000 Syrian refugees. The U.S., by comparison, has allowed just over 10,000 over the same two-year period, while Germany, the country which first helped my mother and me after we left Iran, has welcomed over 1.2 million.
Even as we grieve the horrific events of these past few days with the chemical weapons attack on Syrian families – causing the deaths of dozens of children – we can see the light cracking through the darkness when determined, visionary and courageous leaders like Prime Minister Trudeau and Malala Yousafzai stand up and support a more balanced, peaceful and kind world.
Please join me in expressing gratitude, as we follow this historic event, and share support for their actions, even as we forever remain grateful to those who have welcomed us in the spirit of what is truly German, American and Canadian.
Imagine how much brighter a place our world would be if all leaders led like Prime Minister Trudeau.