Salma Ataullahjan was born in Mardan, Pakistan, in the northern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Daughter of Saranjam Khan, a former Pakistani Senator, and Granddaughter of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (“Bacha Khan”), leader of a non-violent Muslim movement for independence from British rule, Salma attributes her political aspirations to the environment in which she grew up.
She arrived in Canada as a young bride in the early 80s, settling in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). After more than 30 years in the GTA, she has made a lasting impression in the community because of her commitment and dedication to others. A natural consensus builder, Salma has been actively involved in several organizations, notably The Citizens Foundation, Canadian Pashtun Cultural Association, and South Asian Regional Council of Canada.
Destined to follow in her family’s inspirational footsteps, Salma was appointed to the Canadian Senate in the summer of 2010 as a representative for the province of Ontario. As the first Canadian Senator of Pakistani origin, she stands for the ethnic diversity of all Canadians.
In the Senate, Salma is Deputy Chair of the Standing Committee on Human Rights and a member of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, as well as the Standing Committee on National Finance.
She is committed to issues affecting women and youth, having proposed several recognized studies in the Human Rights committee - one on women’s engagement in Afghanistan, another on cyberbullying of children under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Canada.
Salma also serves as Past President of the Canadian Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), an international organization of parliaments that holds the objective of fostering contacts, coordination and the exchange of experience among parliamentarians from 159 countries. She played a critical role in a landmark resolution on maternal, newborn and child health, the first time a resolution of its kind was adopted by the IPU. Because of this, she was named the IPU’s Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. She is also a member of the executive with the IPU’s Group of the Twelve Plus and a member of the Co-coordinating Committee of Women Parliamentarians.
Until the fall of 2014, Salma served on the Executive Committee of the IPU, as well as Chair of their Sub-Committee on Finance.