STRAIGHT TALK by Hafeez Khan

“All politics is local”. A huge truth simply stated. I have lived in Erin Mills, Mississauga for the last 20 years in same locality. Mississauga is now the 6th largest city in Canada. It grew quickly till it ran out of land to develop! It has the calmness of a suburb, yet the vibrancy of an expansive entrepreneurship. When I moved to Canada in mid nineties, there were multiples choices in this vast country.

We selected Mississauga for its vicinity to Canada’s largest airport where I can get on a plane and land directly in my beloved Lahore. Being a relatively young city, the infrastructure is well planned. It is scenic with Credit River running in its midst and has abundance of beautiful parks. The schools and hospitals are well run.

More than the physical attributes, I love the friendliness, welcoming citizens from around the globe and respect for all beliefs and ethnicities. When I moved my family in late nineties to a well established neighborhood, the neighbors came to call on us bearing baskets of fruits, flowers and gifts for the house. This gesture explains it all. Where else would one experience this generosity in this day and age?

Having laid my roots in Erin Mills right across from an apple orchard, I settled into business, and guess what? I started to participate in local politics! Having seen the rough and tumble of Pakistani politics, it took me some time to understand the local style and the way it is conducted. Coming from an overly political society, I was taken aback by a lack of political dialogue amongst the voters.

It seemed as if no one was interested, but I learnt very quickly that actually everyone was deeply involved. The voters spoke through their votes. Elections are won and lost based on ideological positioning, past performance and electoral platforms. We have Conservatives on the right, Liberals in the centre with a social conscience, NDP to the left and environmentalists as Green Party. In my riding (constituency in Pakistan) of Erin Mills, Iqra Khalid is the incumbent Liberal MP seeking re-election.

We met up this week and chatted about her journey, what makes her tick and spoke about the challenges she faces. Why vote Liberal to get her re-elected?

Iqra Khalid, a lawyer by profession, was 6 years old when her family moved to UK. Her Dad earned a doctorate there. They moved back to Pakistan when she was 11. Stayed there for a year and then the family migrated to Canada in 1998 when she was 12. Her fondest memories in Pakistan are summer vacations spent in the village with the extended family. Her rudest shock was finding out school teachers accepted bribes!

Iqra’s Dad is Dr. Muhammad Khalid, he is also known as Hafiz Khalid, for having memorized the Holy Quran. Like all new Canadians, he quickly found out the stiff barriers in the way of joining his teaching profession in Canada. Belonging to the middle class, his nest egg was small. Raising a family of six, with four school going kids was no easy task. However he had the family support, especiallyhis wife.Working their way through many challenges, the family acquired Al Ramzan Grocers and moved to Mississauga in 2005.

Iqra completed Grade 12 from East York Collegiate in Toronto and joined York University for her undergrad in professional Writing and Criminology. While studying she helped in running the family store along with her three brothers. I saw her working in the store quietly behind the scene. Who could imagine this low key, meek looking girl would emerge as our smart, hard working MP within a few years?

I asked her for the strongest influences in her life. Without hesitation she named her Mom for her quiet strength and her work ethic, and her Dad for his determination to face and overcome whatever challenges that came their way!

After her undergrad, Iqra went onto earn a law degree from Thomas Cooley Law School in Michigan. She completed her articling with City of Mississauga legal department. 2015 was a life changing year for her. She was called to the Bar as a Barrister and Solicitor, won the nomination of Liberal Party and then got elected as Erin Mills MP.

Erin Mills is one of the most diverse ridings in Canada. It has over 80 thousand voters. 20% have Anglo Saxon origins while 80% are South Asian, Middle Eastern, Chinese, Filipino and other origins. 13% are Muslims. What a motley crowd to navigate!

Reliving her experiences as 1st term MP, Iqra recalled the challenge of being a young, South Asian, Muslim woman with little experience in practical politics. How tough it was to rise to the high expectations of her voters. She found support amongst the caucus and was treated with love, affection and respect. Her Mom’straining, also her role model, paid off. I found her as one of the most hard working MPs that I have seen over the years.

Always smiling, she was available to her constituents,through her office,for any help or assistance required. She created space for herself in Ottawa by becoming the head of Liberal Women’s Caucus. She authored and got a motion passed in the Parliament to study the effects of Systemic Rise in Racism and Religious Discrimination including Islamophobia. A subject explicitly raised by Prime Minister Imran Khan in his UN speech on September 27th.

There was a huge back lash by the Right Wing Media, including death threats and receiving over 90 thousand emails. Throughout this ordeal she never stopped smiling!

So why support Iqra for next elections? She represents the new face of Canada. She interacts with the community, she is a source of hope to other aspirants who felt encouraged enough to enter the field of politics. She is focused on improving life for the Middle Class and the integration of New Canadians into the society. She gives them hope that with hard work and commitment anything is possible in Canada! Let us join hands and re-elect Iqra Khalid as our next Erin Mills MP.

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