Categorized | Canadian Politics

Iqra Khalid proposes “Inform. Reform. Empower” for change

Posted on 27 August 2014 by admin

By Saima S. Hussain

Mississauga

It’s Thursday evening and she’s sitting in a corner booth at the coffee shop. Wearing a dark jacket and red pants, she is busily tapping away on her phone while she waits for me. “Iqra?” I ask as I get closer. She looks up; her face breaks out in a big, bright smile before she replies: “Yes, that’s me!”

She looks like she should be heading to the movies with friends, or at least chatting with them over an ice cap. “Single women your age are either busy getting married or looking for someone to marry. What are you doing standing for election?” I ask her deliberately. Unfazed, she bursts out laughing. Clearly she’s heard this question before from inquisitive desi aunties. Her answer is disarmingly honest: “There’s so much to do, so much that needs to be done. Public service for me takes priority over self-service.”

“Why are you entering into the world of politics?” I asked. “Our country is going through a lot of changes. I want to be part of the change. I want to ensure that the change our country goes through is reflective of the people of the country.”

Iqra is seeking nomination to be the Liberal Party of Canada Candidate for the riding of Mississauga Erin Mills in the next federal elections. A soon-to-be-lawyer who works for the City of Mississauga, she is a first generation immigrant, having moved to Canada with her family from Pakistan when she was twelve. Iqra earned her Honours Bachelor of Arts from York University, majoring in professional writing and criminology. She then went on to obtain her Juris Doctorate after working for a number of years.

Only twenty-eight years of age, Iqra is a strong believer in giving back to the community so she started volunteering at a very young age. She has held many elected positions, representing various community initiatives and interest groups. Her success in these positions has always come down to neutrality, fairness and objectivity.

“Canada is a safe haven for so many different communities and cultures. We are famous for our multiculturalism but I think we need to work hard at increasing the bond and connection between different communities as well. We as Canadians are masters of tolerance but I think we need to go a step beyond. We have accepted our differences and now we need to embrace them. By working together and pooling all our resources, our skills and talents, despite our differences in age, gender, colour, ethnicity, we can really build a more united and stronger community of Canada.”

 Iqra feels very strongly about equality and minority rights.

“Our country is based on minorities working together. Our objective should be to level the playing ground for everyone so that we can collectively prosper socially and economically, at the local, national and international level.” Her words were very passionate.

“All that is great, but aren’t you still too young for public office”, I asked, again not hesitating to put her on the spot. “Age is just a number and youth is a curable disease. I may be young but my life experiences have given me the same maturity and understanding of issues as those who are much older than me. When I came to Canada with my family, our pockets were empty. Often times, just paying the rent was a challenge. My father worked as a security guard, my mother and older brother worked in factories. I went to weddings and parties to apply henna designs on girls’ hands. That’s how I chipped in. We all worked hard. But that is not something unique. My story is the story of the average first generation immigrant.”

Her honesty stunned me. Politicians are known to hide their less than prestigious past. Yet here she was, proudly recalling the struggle her family went through and the hurdles they overcame to be where they are today. Iqra worked hard for her law degree, one of her brothers is heading to medical school and the family now runs a well-established business in Mississauga.

Having lived through such turbulent circumstances, she has first-hand knowledge of issues that other politicians can only talk about: immigration and settlement; access to accreditation programs, professional and personal networking opportunities, affirmative action against discrimination and increased services for marginalized people.

 “If you feel strongly about different groups such as newcomers or youths or women who fail to find adequate employment because they are either considered over-qualified or lack experience, or if you feel that Canadian foreign policy is unfair and does not represent the sentiments of majority of Canadians then become involved and work towards changing the policies.” She said.

That is all well and good, but I wanted to know how she proposed to affect the change that she talked about.

“Saima, affecting change is not a one-man job nor is it an over-night phenomenon. Change is a three-step process” She said. “Inform. Reform. Empower. Information is always the first step. By raising awareness about issues, educating and discussing them, we find out the depth of a problem. With that information, we then look at possible solutions, how to reform our current systems and methods for tackling problems, and make informed decisions. Lastly, we empower each other to take action based on the information and collective decisions. Through empowerment, we affect change at the grassroots level. We maintain a strong foundation. We build to last.”

Clearly, Iqra Khalid practises what she preaches.

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