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Maryam Monsef on women in politics and her Liberal aspirations

Photo of Monsef meeting with supporters after announcing she was running for mayor in late August by Pat Reddick.
Photo of Monsef meeting with supporters after announcing she was running for mayor in late August by Pat Reddick.

So, why the Liberals?

I have knocked on thousands of doors in this riding and believe the Liberals are our best change at replacing Harper as a leader.

I know that Justin is not perfect, none of the candidates are, but I can relate to him and his vision. I look at the people the party has attracted and they are people from all walks of life that I could see myself working with. I believe my voice is a progressive one and it will have great impact within the Liberal caucus.

When I ran for the mayoral election I received a lot of the same criticism Justin did for being too young, too inexperienced. He made me feel like if he could do it, so could I.

What are the barriers you have faced in politics as a woman?

Because of all the work women and men have been doing for decades, what I have experienced as an immigrant woman, even as a young woman, has been great.

They told me, ‘you have to grow very thick skin because you’re an Afghan woman’. I was ready for a viciousness that never came and it was because I was surrounded by such incredible people. It was because of all the great women and men paving the path for you and me.

So you received a lot of support from both women and men?

One of the best pieces of advice I got was, “Just remember, whether they love you or hate you it’s because they see parts of themselves in you”. And these guys who believed in me saw their mothers and their daughters and sisters.

What was the biggest support you received in this Federal nomination?

Cammie Jaquays, a brilliant inspiring woman. Without her, I wouldn’t be here. She said to me, “You know Maryam I’ve worked very hard, I’ve run an excellent campaign, but I believe you can do it and I am willing to step aside and put my support behind you 1000 percent.” For somebody like her to believe in me, as well as there being a great generosity of spirit in her gesture, it’s a really exciting time to be a woman in politics.

We are willing to work together and support each other. Where we can communicate with each other through technology, throughout generations, in ways we’ve never been able. How long has it been, how many people have struggled and paved this path? I don’t take that privilege lightly.

So… Bill C51. How do you feel about it?

So how do I feel about protecting the country against terrorists and extremists? And as someone whose family has been directly affected by terrorists and extremists I think it’s a country’s obligation to protect its people.

I only ask because the Liberals have taken a clear stance for it. Do you find the bill to be problematic at all?

What I think is problematic is how Mr. Harper has gone about providing CISIS with such power that I think we are missing Parliamentary oversight. We are missing an opportunity to learn from some of our strongest allies in fighting terrorism: The United States and Great Britain.

They’ve introduced Parliamentary Oversight or Congressional Oversight and it’s working really well in balancing individual rights with the needs to protect the public. Why aren’t we doing that? I do support protecting the people of this country. What I don’t support is that much power without that oversight.

On the definition of terrorism…

As Peter McKay reminded us a few weeks ago we need to “re-examine our definition of Terrorism.” That piece around the operational definition of what Terrorism is is very important and then if we are going to include Muslims in that definition…

If we are going to include cultural groups in that definition, let’s look at what’s happening to radicalize these young men and women and let’s focus on the kind of outreach that is happening to address that dynamic.

We know that empowering women is a great tool to reduce this radicalization and educating the masses and their communities. If we’re going to look at solution to address terrorism, we need to address everything from Parliamentary oversight. It’s a ballot box issue. This election, Parliamentary oversight is key.

On the discussion of Muslims and xenophobia in the proposed Bill

Voices like mine where I feel like I could be a benefit answering that question. It would be good to understand Islam. Understand it as a religion and as a culture and recognize that the majority of Muslims denounce these activities and that the people who call themselves Muslims and then kill other people are by definition not Muslims.
Then there is this operational definition of terrorism and we need to figure out what that means because these are lives at stake, people’s sons and daughters.

International Women’s Day is approaching. Who are the women that inspire you?

I hope that I am one of those women that [are] paving the path. The Red Pashmina website. There is a Women of Impact list, the Peterborough community has nominated over the last four years. Ordinary women doing extraordinary things. Every single one of these women has a powerful story, doing things behind the scenes without seeking the spotlight. There are the women who inspire me.

More recently: Cammie Jaquways inspires me. My mother inspires me every single day, my five year-old niece inspires me. She reminds me of the kind of world to want to help build. Lynn Zimmer, Betsey McGregor. Linda Slavin, a woman who’s generations ahead of her time, inspires me. These women are everywhere in our community.

And the Malalas of the world. During the Mayoral election when things were getting a bit heated- this girl stood up and spoke truth to power even though he had a gun to her head. That really inspired me. I thought, if she could do that then I can try to do just a little bit of that. Throughout history these women have laid the tracks that you and I are both walking on.

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