I attended the Eid-ul-Fitr dinner on August 9th, 2014, which was held at the Verdi Convention Centre in Mississauga. The guest of honour was the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Justin Trudeau. Given the tensions in the Middle East coinciding with the end of Ramadan, the air was full of anticipation about how Justin would address these issues with the Muslim community in Canada. There were pro-Palestinian demonstrators outside voicing their displeasure with the Liberal Party’s official stance on the Gaza conflict not to mention a full house inside the hall as well.
Over the last month, I was having doubts about what the agenda was for Justin Trudeau and his party. Was he going to take the easy road or was he going to stand up for what I felt was an injustice taking place in Palestine.
During his speech he was very clear: “There can only be a safe and secure Israel only if there is a safe and secure Palestine.”
For me, both born as a Canadian and as a Muslim, I love my country because two of our greatest Prime Ministers, Wilfred Laurier and Pierre Trudeau championed multiculturalism and the rights of the minorities that made this land their home.
Tonight I had the opportunity to speak directly with Justin about my concerns with regards to the direction this country was headed in a nationally and on a global level.
As people were streaming to take selfies with Justin, I stood right in front of him and spoke, “I would like to have a word with you.”
He came right up to me and extended his hand to greet me and waited for me to continue.
“14 years ago,” I said, “I sent your family a letter of condolence in which I spoke of how wonderful my family thought your father, Pierre Trudeau, was and what he meant to us as Canadians because we were so deeply saddened by this loss. Within a month, you sent me back a personalized ‘Thank You’ card and on that day, I had decided that when this man decides to run for public office, I would ask him one question.”
He smiled and waited for me to continue.
My question was, “Can I count on you the way that my parents counted on your father?”
His smile widened and asked me “What did you think of my father?”
“I thought your father was an incredible man,” I replied.
Justin paused, “Well, he was an even better father who instilled greater values to his children.”
I looked him right in the eye and said, “Do you promise not to forget about ‘us’?”
Without flinching, he replied, “That’s why I am running to make sure you are not forgotten.”
With a sense of relief I shook his hand and walked away with a sense that the Trudeau legacy was not lost. I felt that his concern for the Muslims was genuine and that there was still hope.
Thank you, Justin. Those five minutes were what I needed from you.
- Samira Khan