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The Honourable Mobina S. B. Jaffer

June 12, 2024

Hon. Raymonde Saint-Germain [ + ]

Honourable senators, today we salute an exceptional woman and a distinguished senator on the eve of her retirement after 23 years of service in the Senate of Canada. The Honourable Mobina Jaffer is a role model for many of us. She is one of the greats to whom we will refer long after they have left the Senate.

Mobina’s background is indeed exceptional. Early in life, she was confronted with racism and exclusion. Born in Uganda to a practising Shia Ismaili family, her parents and their six children were forced to flee the Ugandan dictatorship in the early 1970s. This made her a strong, resilient woman who, in her youth, understood the terrible harm caused by racism, intolerance and the denial of the rule of law. Without a doubt, this would set her on the right path. She would become a lawyer and serve democracy through her advocacy work and then as a parliamentarian.

Excellently trained with a law degree from the University of London, she was the first South Asian woman lawyer in private practice in Canada. Her excellence was recognized in 1998 when she was appointed Queen’s Counsel. Her experience and in-depth knowledge of international conflicts would serve our country well as she went on to be Canada’s Special Envoy for Peace in Sudan. She also chaired the Canadian Committee on Women, Peace and Security, and in this capacity was called upon to plead before the UN Security Council.

For nearly eight years now, I’ve had the privilege of working alongside Mobina and seeing how principled she is. Family, loyalty, respect, ethics, faith and openness to others are what matter most to her. It’s a privilege to work alongside such a great Canadian and patriot, someone for whom the future of the country, the growth of democracy and the experience of living together in our multicultural society are of the utmost importance.

For Mobina, respect for both official languages, a fundamental linguistic right, is the glue that holds the country together. In fact, she has often spoken proudly of her family, particularly her daughter, her son and her grandchildren, who all speak both official languages.

I will never forget her welcoming words on December 2, 2016, the day I was sworn in. She came up to me and, in excellent French, immediately offered her help like a big sister. Ever since then she’s been there for me through thick and thin, never failing to show sympathy and encouragement. She did it for me; she did it for so many of us.

It’s time to say to my big sister, thank you and au revoir. “Au revoir“ means we’ll be seeing each other again. On behalf of the Independent Senators Group, I salute her excellence, merit and achievements. I would also like to express our appreciation for the privilege of having served alongside her in thanking her husband, children and grandchildren for having shared her with us. I wish you many happy years with your family.

To my sister Mobina, please savour the satisfaction of having fulfilled your duty. Through me, dear Mobina, all your colleagues in the ISG say to you: Bravo, mission accomplished. We love you, and you will always be one of us. Thank you.

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) [ + ]

Honourable senators, I too rise today to pay tribute and offer thanks to Senator Mobina Jaffer, one of the most hard‑working, dedicated and kind members of our upper house.

Senator Jaffer was appointed on the recommendation of former Prime Minister Chrétien in 2001. Of note, Senator Jaffer was the first Muslim senator here in the Red Chamber.

Over the past 23 years, Mobina has been a member of many Senate committees, most recently serving as Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, but her heart and so much of her work has always been focused on human rights. As you know, she fled Uganda in 1972 during Idi Amin’s expulsion reign, and she personally witnessed horrors in a country where human rights were ignored; indeed, she nearly lost both her father and her husband to the purge.

How fortunate for all of us that Mobina’s father chose to come to Canada after his family fled Uganda. Her career as a lawyer — the first South Asian lawyer in Canada, as our colleague Senator Saint-Germain already mentioned — her work as Canada’s Special Envoy for Peace in Sudan, her chairing of the Canadian Committee on Women, Peace and Security and the many invitations she received to speak on issues related to women’s rights and women’s safety are a testament to how highly she regards the causes she cares most about.

Senator Jaffer has been an inspiration to many young women, especially immigrant women, who have witnessed her successes and have seen in her possibilities for themselves. Mobina sincerely believes that her role is to give back. She is in service to Canada and to Canadians. Her interventions in this chamber, in committee, at speaking engagements or in her one-on-one discussions with colleagues are always respectful and impactful. Her love for her Canada, her chosen country; her tireless fight for human rights, especially women’s rights; and her vigorous voice for her beloved British Columbia have all been at the forefront of her career. Mobina never lets up, even when fighting her own health challenges.

On a personal level, Mobina, I want to thank you for your support and, most importantly, for the friendship that you extended to me from the very first days when I arrived. I’m going to miss you a lot.

As you take leave of the Senate, and on behalf of myself and the Government Representative Office, I wish you joy in your retirement. However, I have no doubt that even while spending time with your husband, Nuralla, your sons and your grandchildren — that being at the top of your priority list — I suspect that there will be new challenges that you will embrace in the future.

Your presence will be missed by all of us here, Mobina. Thank you.

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [ + ]

Honourable senators, on behalf of the Conservative caucus and opposition in the Senate and as a fellow B.C. senator, I rise to pay tribute to our retiring colleague the Honourable Mobina Jaffer. Senator Jaffer, it is with mixed emotions that we pay our tributes because on one hand we are happy that you will have more time to spend with your loved ones, but we are also sad that you will soon be leaving us.

It is a fact that our colleague Mobina Jaffer is not only the first Muslim senator to be appointed to the Senate of Canada, but she is also the first African-born senator, the first senator of South Asian descent and the first South Asian woman to practise law in Canada. She is, indeed, a trailblazing pioneer in Canadian history in more ways than one.

Throughout her illustrious career, Senator Jaffer has consistently demonstrated her dedication and commitment to public service. Her tireless efforts in championing human rights and advocating for the marginalized have left indelible marks on our institution, as well as in the annals of Canadian history. She has taken on a leadership role in advocating for women’s rights. Her efforts have shaped policy. She has inspired countless individuals to engage in public service, and has cultivated a desire in others to make a difference.

On a personal level, I remember my early days as a newly appointed senator. At the end of one of the sitting days, I remember Senator Jaffer pausing to speak to me as we exited the chamber. Your words of wisdom then, spoken with sincerity and care, still reverberate in my head:

Be patient. You will know what you are meant to do as a senator. An issue or cause will find you. Just be patient, and you will know when it is yours.

Your warm smile and gentle touch gave me a sense of assurance that I would soon find my footing, and, sure enough, the first cause that has become one of my defining roles — to be a champion for the Korean War veterans — found me a few months later. Other issues have found me since then, just as you said.

I have repeated your sage words to others from time to time. Your words guide me to this day in knowing what I am to do in giving voice to the voiceless, in my constituency work as a senator.

Senator Jaffer, thank you for your friendship and for your genuine care of me and others. Thank you for your exemplary service. Your dedication to our nation will not be forgotten, and, while we will miss your presence in the Senate of Canada, we wish you all the best in your well-deserved retirement. May this new chapter bring you good health, joy and quality time with your loved ones.

Hon. Scott Tannas [ + ]

Honourable senators, if you were to conduct a poll amongst parliamentarians today and ask the question “Which senator is the most likely to have a school named after them?” I am certain that Senator Jaffer’s name would be first on the list.

My leadership colleagues have provided you with Senator Jaffer’s accomplishments and firsts during her career. I’d like to share a few personal insights into this remarkable woman and parliamentarian.

When I was young, I lived in Uganda during the turbulent time in 1971 when the military coup took place and Idi Amin took power. I saw first-hand some of the terror and turmoil leading up to the expulsion decree in 1972.

Senator Jaffer has often shared her experiences and hardships as a refugee, as well as the challenges she faced coming to Canada. The courage shown by this remarkable woman — and, indeed, her entire family — leaving her homeland under duress and with nothing, to then rebuild a new life in a foreign country, speaks volumes about her character, her perseverance and her determination. I am honoured to sit with her as one of her peers.

I believe that one of the traits that permits her to turn adversity into success is her unwavering faith. As an Ismaili-Muslim woman, her commitment to her community and her heritage is remarkable and admirable. She has exemplified the tenet of her faith with a commitment to generosity by caring and by giving, without hesitation, her time and her sound counsel to assist her colleagues in the Senate.

She has been a true ambassador for her community through numerous statements in this place, leading by example with her compassion and caring for those who are oftentimes voiceless. As a champion for diversity, multilingualism and human rights, she has paved the road for those who will follow her by fulfilling her duty to serve. She once wrote that she owes her success, honours, awards and milestones to the values instilled in her as an Ismaili Muslim and as a follower of the Aga Khan.

I’d like to share an observation which I discovered when I arrived here in the Senate 11 years ago. Senator Jaffer is likely the most prolific speaker to inquiries in the history of the Senate. She used this opportunity in a very efficient manner to bring attention to policies and causes which required national attention. I distinctly remember “Senator Jaffer days” in the Senate, where she would speak to multiple inquiries in a single day, and she would speak extremely quickly to ensure that all that needed to be said appeared in the record of debates for all kinds of stakeholders and audiences. This was before broadcasting in the Senate and before social media. Again, she was a voice for those who — in Canada and around the world — needed to be heard, needed to be understood and needed to have hope.

Senator Jaffer, today is day 8,401 of your service in the Senate. For each of these days, the Senate and your Senate colleagues have been enriched by your presence, your friendship, your contribution to our debates, your grace, your generosity and your unwavering support to your home, Canada.

On behalf of the Canadian Senators Group, we wish you a happy and restful retirement with your family and your friends. God bless Mobina.

Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond [ + ]

Honourable senators, I am pleased to rise to pay tribute to the Honourable Mobina Jaffer, who tomorrow will celebrate the 23rd anniversary of her appointment to the Senate.

In June 2001, the Senate was rather partisan. In choosing Senator Jaffer, prime minister Jean Chrétien appointed a committed woman who had held various positions in the Liberal Party, including chair of the National Women’s Liberal Commission, or NWLC, and who ran in the 1993 and 1997 federal elections. She was also the first African-born senator, the first senator of South Asian descent and the first Muslim senator: three firsts in one day.

She was also an influential member of the Senate Liberal caucus before becoming a non-affiliated senator in 2018 and then joining the Independent Senators Group, or ISG, in 2019.

It was during that transition period, her transition period, that I first met Mobina and discovered how passionate she is about human rights, justice and the fight against all forms of discrimination.

Over the last few years, I have had the pleasure to work closely with her on the steering committee of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee. I appreciate her leadership of our committee, her understanding of the law, her commitment to end discrimination, her steady insistence on GBA Plus analysis and her advocacy for greater data to better measure the impact of our laws on various groups and communities.

I also want to acknowledge Senator Jaffer’s sponsorship of Bill C-48, the North Pacific tanker ban, in 2019. This chamber’s close final vote was a milestone in the affirmations of the Salisbury Convention, and an important act of reconciliation with coastal First Nations.

To me, the most striking contributions of Senator Jaffer remain her strong voice for human rights, dialogue and solidarity. In the context of the current rise of hate speech and racism, I conclude by sharing parts of a statement by major religious groups from B.C., which was included in her maiden speech in 2001 after September 11:

We call upon all Canadians to join their prayers and their good will, to guard against prejudice and hatred, to befriend and support each other.

Colleagues, we shall always keep these words in mind.

On behalf of the independent senators of the Progressive Senate Group, I wish you, my friend, all the best in your retirement, and hope you enjoy some time with your family while you rest and plan for your next contribution to Canada.

Hon. Bernadette Clement [ + ]

Mobina, at Monday’s African Canadian Senate Group meeting, we started saying our goodbyes since it would be our last meeting with you. Not very many of us could get through a simple goodbye on Teams without crying.

At times, this place has felt lonely. But from the very first day I met you, you have made it less lonely here for me. Sometimes when I’m feeling this way in the chamber — because we’re both little — I prop myself up to peek over the big stack of books just to see you; I immediately feel calmer, stronger and more welcome here.

This is not an easy place for some of us. I know it has not been easy for you either. Something I love most about you is how you make no secret of this. You say the things and exactly how it is; you don’t try to sugar-coat anything. You tell it to me straight, but always with a reminder that you have my back and we are sisters. Then you tell me I need some lipstick and you send me on my way. This is perfect because it’s exactly who you are.

What I’m particularly in awe of is your leadership style. You are smart but modest, confident but soft, funny but vulnerable, tough but caring. A time when we saw this in action was at the Laval detention centre. You were speaking with a detained African woman. You were direct and tough. The next thing we knew, you had switched to speaking Swahili. We saw the kindness and softness come shining through. You balance all of these important traits so beautifully, skilfully, with ease and grace.

The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs was a very intimidating place to walk into. At my very first meeting, I nearly turned around and walked right out of there. As an accomplished lawyer — and a Q.C. at that — having you at the helm as chair, and at my side as a committee member, made things okay. I have learned from you how to be in that space.

There was a young volunteer on my mayoral campaign named Jersey, who looks like me, skin and hair like mine. In the car on the way to door knocking, she reached up to the front seat, tugged on my hair and confidently said, “One day I’m going to run for mayor too.” I understood in that moment how much representation matters. I have not had mentors who look like me in my life.

When I arrived here, I was like Jersey, the little girl in the back seat. And I saw you, Mobina, in the front seat, my mentor, who was leading the way and showing me that I belong here too.

Your grandson, Ayaan Jeraj, asked me to be a Black History Month guest in his classroom. I was thrilled to do so. He is so much like you. He has a huge heart. He’s eloquent, sharp and funny. Your legacy is also your children and grandchildren. You have shown them the way. I’m sure they’ve also taught you a thing or two.

My heart breaks at the thought of not being able to peer over that stack of books to see you. I know you are only a phone call away. Retired or not, you remain my mentor. I know you will continue to guide me through tough times, inspire me to keep going and teach me so much more.

Mobina, my sister, please enjoy your well-deserved retirement.

Hon. Salma Ataullahjan [ + ]

Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to Senator Mobina Jaffer and find myself struggling to express my admiration, respect and love in a few words.

Mobina, my sister, you have been such a strong presence in the Red Chamber. You have an impressive record of firsts, as we heard — the first Muslim senator, first African-born senator and first senator of South Asian descent.

I know a generation of South Asian women have looked up to you as a role model. Indeed, you have paved the way for many of us racialized women.

When I was appointed in 2010, you were the first to welcome me and offer support. I have since come to you many times for guidance, and I knew I could always count on you and your counsel.

Colleagues, as many of you are aware, our work has its challenges. When I needed a sympathetic ear, Mobina was there for me. Thank you for your friendship and support.

At times, there was no need for words between us, Mobina. We simply looked at each other. I knew exactly how we felt about something that was being discussed.

I want to quote Hafez, the Persian poet, who said, “Your heart and my heart are very, very old friends.”

I have admired your dedication to defending human rights in Canada and overseas, as well as celebrating our country’s diversity.

You have never been afraid to ask hard-hitting questions in committee or address difficult topics in the Red Chamber. Advocating for the vulnerable populations’ human rights is not an easy task and yet, Mobina, you have continued to speak up about migrant workers’ rights, women’s bodily autonomy and safety, to name but a few.

As an immigrant to this country, you have been vocal about your love and understanding of the importance of mother languages, fluently speaking six languages yourself.

In addition to advocating for linguistic bilingualism throughout the country, you have also embraced our country’s multiculturalism with your Bill S-214, An Act to establish International Mother Language Day. I was happy to be the critic of this bill, as I believe it has the potential to further unify our country by recognizing that all Canadians’ mother tongue languages are worthy of honour and celebration.

Your presence gave me strength. We’ve shared many good times together, travelled together, laughed together. Nobody will know the challenges we faced together.

As you get ready to retire, I don’t want to say goodbye, my dear sister. Instead, I will use Rumi’s words:

Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation.

Thank you.

Hon. Jane Cordy [ + ]

Honourable senators, each one of us has a unique story regarding what has brought us here to this chamber. Our lives before coming to this place have shaped the kind of work we do here, and, in turn, our presence here shapes the institution and the people who will come after us.

I rise today to pay tribute to our departing colleague Senator Mobina Jaffer.

Senator Jaffer was appointed to the Senate in 2001 by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. Her background in law and her personal background, leaving her home country of Uganda, positioned her well as a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights. During her time on this committee, Senator Jaffer has chaired many important studies, including one on the sexual exploitation of children and the need for national action.

Senator Jaffer has also been a champion for bilingualism. Not only has she participated in many initiatives to encourage the use of French and English in communities across Canada, but she was also the sponsor for Bill S-214, recognizing February 21 as Mother Language Day.

Celebrating multilingualism strengthens Canada’s diverse and multicultural society. Mobina herself speaks six different languages but, more importantly, she listens and understands in six languages.

As a Canadian born elsewhere, Senator Jaffer represents well all those who, for many different reasons, have chosen to make Canada their home.

As others have said, she was the first Muslim senator, the first African-born senator and the first senator of South Asian descent. In this way, she has blazed a trail for those new to Canada aspiring to careers in politics.

Mobina, it has been a pleasure serving with you in this chamber. Thank you for your friendship. I wish you more time relaxing and enjoying time with your family. I’m sure your husband Nuralla, your children and grandchildren, who we hear a lot about, will be happy to have you near.

I will miss our many conversations and laughs, my friend. It has been a privilege working with you.

Hon. Pierrette Ringuette [ + ]

Honourable senators, I rise today to recognize our colleague the Honourable Mobina Jaffer for her many contributions in the Senate and on the international scene as she retires from our chamber.

Many already stated the incredible achievements of Senator Jaffer. Who is this Wonder Woman? Senator Jaffer is the immigrant girl, the lawyer, the wife, the mother and the grandmother. Mobina is the unrelenting human rights advocate, the peace diplomat, the international speaker, the peace activist, a businesswoman and — as we all recently learned — a chicken farmer. How can one compile such a list of achievements and not be called “Superwoman”? Maybe you will tell us that you can also fly, Mobina.

Many times in our chamber, Mobina, with her soft voice yet very powerful words, relayed to us testimonies of girls and women in situations of abuse. She could only do so by being a compassionate listener, able to relate and transmit in vivid terms. She unleashed our willingness to fight for these women and girls. She used her position in the Senate to advocate on their behalf. Mobina could listen with such compassion because she understood, being a target of discrimination herself.

I have known Mobina for 30 years and admire her unrelenting devotion to every issue she undertakes.

Before I cry, on a more humorous note, most women dream of having a walk-in closet for shoes. Well, my friends, I believe Mobina has a walk-in closet for jewellery, which makes me very jealous.

Dear friend, dear Mobina, I will miss you so much. I hope you have a great retirement alongside your loving husband, children and grandchildren. Gary and I will always have a place in our home and our hearts for you. Hugs, my friend. Happy retirement.

Hon. David M. Wells [ + ]

Senator Jaffer, if everyone is saying how kind you are, it must be true. It’s one of the lines in my notes, so I’ll start with that. Not everyone’s tribute includes the line “You’ve been so kind,” but yours does.

We have heard that she was appointed in 2001 by Canada’s most conservative of Liberal prime ministers, Jean Chrétien. Senator Jaffer is proud — and we’ve joked about it over the years, with me being a proud Conservative and Senator Jaffer being a proud Liberal. She’s happy to say it openly, even in these troubled times.

Senator Jaffer was the Deputy Chair of the Subcommittee on Senate Estimates and Committee Budgets when I chaired it back in 2014 or 2015. Together, we did two key things that were important for the Senate and which live on. The first was the zero-based budgeting process, through which we brought the Senate’s budget back down to zero and then built it up to where it should be; it wasn’t just increases.

The second was the initial work on the creation of the Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight. Senator Jaffer was there at the sharp end of the stick right after the Auditor General’s report. Senator Jaffer, I remember well when we would sometimes talk on the phone in the evenings about what had happened that day or what would happen the next. And Senator Jaffer was always willing to see that the changes the Senate required were made. Those live on today.

Also, I didn’t know anything about Ismaili Muslims; I had some knowledge but not a lot. Senator Jaffer would tell me about that. Since then, I’ve realized that she’s been a leading voice for Ismaili Muslims in Canada. For that, thousands — millions — of people are thankful. I thank you for that.

To conclude, Senator Jaffer, your contributions have been valuable, appreciated and — of course, as I said — will live on. Thank you.

Hon. Amina Gerba [ + ]

As Senator Clement said earlier, we all cried when we said goodbye on Monday. I will try my best not to cry again.

I rise today to pay tribute to my African sister, Senator Mobina Jaffer. She is the first African of South Asian descent — as everyone has mentioned — and the first Muslim woman to be appointed to the Senate of Canada.

When I was appointed to this august chamber, I rushed to read up on the senators and their backgrounds. That is how I found out that I was not the first African-born woman to become a Canadian senator. However, when talking about Senator Jaffer to friends who are not familiar with the ethnic and racial diversity of the African continent, many told me that Senator Jaffer could not be considered African because she is not Black, she is of South Asian descent.

The fact that many people continue to believe that Africa’s inhabitants are all Blacks attests to the lack of knowledge about the African continent. Just by talking to Senator Jaffer, I could see how proud she is of her Ugandan and African heritage. Honourable colleagues, we can leave Africa, no matter how and no matter under what conditions, but Africa never leaves us. After arriving in Canada as a refugee, the Honourable Senator Jaffer dedicated her career to representing and defending the interests of all Canadians, especially those who, like her, found a new home in this country of immigrants, which took all of us in. She came to this country as a refugee, but she has done it all, as you said, and I could have repeated everything you said.

A senator for 23 years, she used her unique history and powerful, yet always warm, voice to inspire and influence the policies that have shaped our country, to make the Canada we all love an inclusive and diverse place. Thank you.

Senator Jaffer is a true African mother who embodies the values of resilience, wisdom, compassion and generosity. I actually wore this sari, which you have all admired, to show her how much I appreciate her many gifts. My sister Mobina, after so many years of service to your community and to Canadians, it is high time that you enjoyed a well-deserved retirement with Nuralla and with your whole family, including your grandchildren and children, who are here today. Nuralla, love of her life, you will take good care of Mobina every day. I know that you’ve already planned a long trip to East Africa, and I hope you enjoy every minute. Thank you, Mobina.

Honourable senators, I’m confident that our friend, colleague and co-agitator Senator Jaffer does not remember our first encounter.

In the early 1990s, the Honourable Bertha Wilson, the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada, chaired the Canadian Bar Association’s Task Force on Gender Equality. Senator Jaffer was then an active lawyer. Despite having been called to the bar for some decades and even being a distinguished Queen’s Counsel, she described how she was often confused for an accused or a clerk by judges and other counsel. These kinds of sexist and racist assumptions have been slow to dissipate — but dissipating they are because of your many contributions.

We can always count on you, Senator Jaffer, to identify and educate others about the discrimination you and too many others have experienced. We are grateful that you have always persisted, with courage, skill, wherewithal and fortitude, to pave the way for others — as we’ve heard from so many of our colleagues.

For decades before I was appointed, I often appeared before Senate committees, especially the Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Then, as now — and now as our chair — Senator Jaffer, you have always been able to rule with an iron fist. But it doesn’t look like an iron fist because it’s always clad in the most soft, luxurious and chic of velvet gloves. You preside over diverse, often very challenging subjects, making everyone feel comfortable and heard. Your interventions are clear, insightful, challenging and always delivered with authority — but also kindness, grace and compassion.

When I entered the upper chamber in 2016, your generosity and kindness — which we’ve heard about from so many others — toward me were immediate and welcomed. In addition to introducing me to many, Mobina, you ensured that I was invited to as many meetings and events as I could possibly cram into every day and week — even non-sitting weeks. Then you would tell me, “Time to slow down, Kim. Take it easy. Don’t take on so many things.” That was true whether we were meeting international dignitaries or visiting with schoolchildren, as well as on that wonderful day we danced on the front lawn of the Hill for the Day of Pink.

Your genuine concern and collaborative nature make you a wonderful and much-valued colleague, mentor and friend. You have also been a keen and frequent participant in the Senators Go to Jail initiative, something well appreciated by correctional staff and prisoners alike — not to mention me.

Senator Jaffer, we all wish you the very best as you venture into this next phase of your amazing life journey. We wish you a well-deserved “slow down, time to take it easy” to do all that makes you happy with your beloved family and immense circle of friends and fans.

I want to thank your family for the privilege and responsibility of sharing this amazing woman with all of them. I want to thank you as you venture forward into this next phase of your life. I can’t imagine what amazing adventures and endeavours you will undertake, but I hope to still occasionally be able to come along for the ride, my friend.

Thank you.

Hon. Leo Housakos (Acting Leader of the Opposition) [ + ]

Honourable senators, Senator Jaffer, when prime ministers summon senators to this august chamber, sometimes they get it right and sometimes they get it wrong. In the case of Senator Jaffer, Jean Chrétien hit the mother lode. There’s no doubt about that in my mind.

In these tributes, we’ve gone through all the firsts and distinguished accolades of Senator Jaffer. One that was not mentioned but must be is that, once upon a time, she was selected as a Canadian Immigrant of the Year by Canadian Immigrant magazine. Could there be a more deserving candidate? That also indicates she is the epitome of a great Canadian because, of course, Canada is a nation where we are all either immigrants or children of immigrants. She is a role model for how hard work, principle and perseverance can lead someone from the most humble beginnings to amazing achievements and great rewards.

When I came to this place, there were a number of people who influenced me — all the giants of the Senate who came before — and she was definitely one of them. She was quiet, kind, sincere and razor sharp. Regardless of her political affiliation — she has been a Liberal, an Independent Liberal, a Progressive and non‑affiliated, you name it — one thing distinguished Senator Jaffer: She is a senator who stood for things she believed in, from when she first came here until the day she left. She not only stood for but fought for what she believed in, regardless of politics, leadership positions or caucus conflicts. I saw this first-hand.

I also saw somebody who was a vociferous voice for freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law in the most unwavering fashion. If I’ve taken some of those things on over the years, Senator Jaffer, it’s because I saw you as a mentor and role model when it came to fighting for them.

I also have to share this: Whenever I did good things, Senator Jaffer would take me aside and say, “Senator Housakos, this is very good,” and whenever I did things she didn’t agree with, she would take me aside and scold me vociferously. In all my battles of public policy discourse in this place, it was only Senator Jaffer who, after she scolded me and I walked away, I always felt had been right and that I had to be better. That’s a special quality Senator Jaffer has.

Senator Clement, you’re absolutely right. This is a tough place, and politics and public life are tough. I had some moments here when I was down and out, and Senator Jaffer, in her kind, sincere way, would take me aside — on at least a couple of occasions — and share her wisdom and kindness. Senator Jaffer, it left a mark and certainly gave me the strength to carry on. I will always appreciate that wisdom and kindness from you.

In a few days, you will be leaving this chamber as a senator for the last time. Many of your colleagues will be hurt and crying over it. I will be celebrating, as will many others — celebrating your legacy, which is so powerful and strong that it will carry on for a very long time after you’re gone.

Thank you. God bless you and your family.

Hon. Andrew Cardozo [ + ]

Honourable senators, it is indeed my pleasure to join in the tributes to Senator Mobina Jaffer this afternoon. I’ve had the good fortune to know her over many years — decades, in fact — as we worked to advance issues of immigration and diversity, albeit from different parts of the country, long before either of us were in the Senate.

In this chamber, Senator Jaffer has often spoken about the important role of Ismailis in Canada — her community — who are followers of His Highness the Aga Khan. In that spirit, I want to take this opportunity to highlight a few attributes of this community, both worldwide and in Canada.

In global terms, it is a small community that punches well above its weight and does so because of its global outlook and generous and ethical leadership, which Senator Jaffer has often highlighted for us.

Ismailis are a branch of Shia Islam, led by Prince Karim Aga Khan, the forty-ninth leader of this branch of Muslims. The Aga Khan Development Network, a noted international development agency, works to eliminate global poverty, promote pluralism and advance the status of women. It is primarily focused on improving the quality of life of people of all faiths in key regions of Asia and Africa.

The Aga Khan is an honorary citizen of Canada and has a long history of visiting Canada and working with Canadians. I particularly appreciated one of his sentiments when he was commenting about the diversity of Canada. He famously said, “The world needs more Canada.”

Senator Jaffer has faithfully talked about His Highness on his birthday each December and highlighted the important work he does worldwide. Indeed, the Aga Khan has worked with Canadian governments over many years. Most notably, he worked with prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau to bring in Asians being expelled from Uganda in the early 1970s, which included one Mobina Jaffer and her family. He opened the Ismaili Jamatkhana in Burnaby with prime minister Brian Mulroney in 1985. He worked on pluralism with prime minister Jean Chrétien in 2002. Notably, prime minister Stephen Harper awarded him honorary Canadian citizenship in 2010. He has continued to be a source of global advice and friendship to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. These, of course, are historical dates which are also featured in Senator Jaffer’s calendar.

On a personal note, Mobina, thank you for your advice, guidance and encouragement to me over the last year and a half since I was appointed to the Senate. Senator Jaffer, thank you for your service to Canada and for highlighting the great contributions that Canadian Ismailis make to this country.

Hon. Mohamed-Iqbal Ravalia [ + ]

Honourable senators, how do we describe our beloved Senator Jaffer, a sister to us all?

Regal, decisive, focused and empathic.

Articulate, precise and meticulous.

An advocate for the importance of the juxtaposition of kindness and humanity in a manner that emboldens the soul.

A bright smile and laser-sharp focus that affirm the elegance of language and substance.

An unbridled passion for advocacy, bringing to these hallowed halls a true reflection of jurisprudence Canadiana, empowering the forgotten and affording an enlightened sense of restitution.

An encyclopedic knowledge of all things that shape our narrative, both ancient and contemporary. An ethereal sense of touching that which seems elusive and hidden behind the walls of history.

Yes, dear Mobina, you have made a difference.

Your interventions have brought forth a kaleidoscopic balance to the sometimes glacially sonorous moments in this chamber to which we have all learned to adapt.

In your triumphant exulting, you leave behind a halo of technicolour that will resonate in this chamber for years to come.

I feel proud to have called you my sister, and I will miss you as the catalyst that opened my eyes to the profound impact of how our role of sober second thought should always encompass fairness and transparency.

I will always have admiration for your wisdom and principles, a bright beacon and a stable anchor for the Ismaili community, which you hold so near and deep in your heart, and the global resonance that you’ve brought to His Highness the Aga Khan.

In all your principal stances, Mobina, there was never an ounce of prevarication.

Thank you. May Allah bless you. As-salam alaikum.

Hon. Rosemary Moodie [ + ]

Honourable senators, it is my honour to rise today to give tribute to an honourable senator, a leader, a mentor, a dear friend and sister — Mobina Jaffer.

Senator Jaffer, congratulations on your illustrious career, a career that includes many highlights, such as being named Queen’s Counsel, chairing both the Human Rights Committee and the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee and being Canada’s Special Envoy for Peace in Sudan. As many have mentioned, your career is marked by many incredible firsts.

You moulded your career with persistence and with focus in the face of significant trials: expulsion from your homeland of Uganda, health issues that have challenged your ability to work as freely as you would want and facing racism and sexism within this very institution. Despite these trials and challenges, you have become the effective, strong and compassionate legislator that you are today.

These challenges have never silenced you. You never wavered. You turned your pain into purpose, and I, for one, am thankful that you never gave up. Despite these challenges, you have also stayed faithful to who you are, to your family, your faith and your values.

Despite your sharp intellect, political savvy, broad experience and deep connections, you remain humble and kind. Few can go through decades in politics and maintain their integrity as you have.

You have a large legacy, dear friend, not just for the legislative work that you have led but for the impact you’ve had on the people you have met. That is why you are loved and appreciated and why you will never be forgotten.

As Chair of the African Canadian Senate Group, it has been an honour for me to work with you. I congratulate and thank you on behalf of our group. We are proud to count you as a founding member. We hope to do your legacy real justice.

Thank you, friend. I’ll miss you terribly. Enjoy your retirement.

Hon. Pat Duncan [ + ]

Honourable senators, each day, entering this chamber, I am reminded of the privilege it is to be in the Senate and to gather with all of you. Today, I’m especially honoured to join colleagues in recognizing our dear friend Senator Mobina Jaffer.

Senator Jaffer’s accomplishments have been noted by many of you. I would like to highlight just one: the passage of An Act respecting Girl Guides of Canada.

Honourable senators, I chose to highlight this particular achievement of Mobina’s, not solely because shepherding that bill through the chamber was one of the early challenges of this rookie ISG chamber coordinator and not only because the Girl Guides is an organization near and dear to my own heart, but also because it’s near and dear to many in this chamber: Senator Deacon, Senator Moncion and Senator Sorensen — all Girl Guides.

During our time as Guides, part of the Girl Guide law included “A Guide is a friend to all and a sister to every other Guide.” That is Mobina, as witnessed by the tributes throughout this chamber. Mobina has been a sister to me from the beginning. Often, when we were seized with imposter syndrome, she would stress to me and to others as she warmly welcomed us all that every voice in this august place matters. She would stress the importance of representing our regions and minorities, especially when sometimes a region is a minority.

A Girl Guide’s honour is to be trusted, and their loyalty is never in question. During our Guiding time, we promised to be loyal to God, the Queen and our country. Our honourable colleague is loyal to her very core: to herself, to her beliefs and to Canada. She is loyal in her Senate summons to give her very best “. . . advice and assistance in all weighty and arduous affairs which may the State and Defence of Canada concern . . . .”

One of the hallmarks of being a Girl Guide is the commitment to leave your campsite cleaner than you found it. Senator Jaffer, please know you’ve done exactly that. You have left your campsite cleaner, left your mark in this place, and you will always be to Canada and to all of us an honourable senator.

Senator Jaffer, you have served your country, Canadians, British Columbians, Muslims, immigrants — us all — with dignity and honour. Having set an example kindly, with wisdom and patience for us, you truly leave the Senate a better place for your presence.

As we are honouring you, may we also offer our heartfelt thanks to all of your family, who have supported you in this journey and loaned you to us. Senator Jaffer, this week we’ve heard senators quote lines from songs, and I’m going to apologize for the earworm. Today, as we say goodbye and wish you well, I’m reminded of the Girl Guide song with which we ended each campfire:

. . . I want to linger

. . . a little longer

. . . a little longer here with you

. . . it’s such a perfect night

. . . it doesn’t seem quite right

. . . that this should be —

— our last with you.

Rest assured, your legacy of loyalty, honour and trust is the clean campsite you have left behind. We will miss you.

Thank you for your legacy. Thank you, dear friend.

Hon. Mary Coyle [ + ]

Honourable senators, I rise today to join the chorus of praise in the Senate Chamber — on the lands of the Algonquin Anishinaabe Nation — as we express our admiration, respect and affection for our remarkably accomplished and beloved colleague the Honourable Mobina Jaffer.

In August 1972, Uganda’s brutal dictator, Idi Amin, expelled tens of thousands of people of South Asian origin, including Mobina Jaffer, her family and many in her Ismaili-Muslim community. Responding to the crisis, the Aga Khan asked his friend and Harvard classmate Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau to help. Uganda’s loss was Canada’s gain, as Senator Jaffer and roughly 6,000 other Ismaili Muslims immigrated to Canada, and she never forgot Africa.

Appointed to the Senate of Canada in 2001, Mobina is a woman of many firsts: the first Muslim senator, the first African‑born senator and the first senator of South Asian descent. She is a proud and loyal Canadian. A central expression of that pride is her commitment to bilingualism, including her own devotion to learning and speaking French, especially in this chamber. This devotion emanates from a place of respect for fellow Canadians.

 — and for our francophone colleagues, in particular.

She champions mother languages, particularly Kutchi — her language.

Senator Jaffer is a proud Ismaili who’s done an outstanding job of pursuing the Ismaili religious mandate to pursue knowledge and fulfill traditions of tolerance by actively working toward harmonious, pluralistic societies. She is a justice warrior, a lawyer and the Chair of the Senate Legal Committee. She was Canada’s Special Envoy for Peace in Sudan, and the chair of the Canadian Committee on Women, Peace and Security. Senator Jaffer has worked tirelessly for rights and justice for children, for women’s place at the table and for all people everywhere who face discrimination.

Our mutual friend the Honourable Roméo Dallaire encouraged me to seek out Senator Jaffer as a role model and ally. General Dallaire, her former colleague on the special advisory team on Darfur, sent me these words to share today for you, Mobina:

Her commitment to human rights, equality for women, courage and eloquence in her interventions, and driving tireless work ethic, are but the surface of the total commitment that this magnificent grand lady gave to her country of adoption. Well done, Senator Jaffer, from a humbled colleague before you.

Honourable colleagues, as we bid farewell to this magnificent grand lady, with the sparkle usually right there on her shoulder, and with her brilliant brain and beautiful heart, let’s join all Canadians in saying, “Shukar, Senator Jaffer.”

Thank you, Mobina.

You will be so missed. You are so loved.

Hon. Yuen Pau Woo [ + ]

Honourable senators, there are many threads in the “amazing technicolour dreamcoat” that Senator Mobina Jaffer has woven over the years. In the course of today’s tributes, we have received a glimpse of the warp and woof of our honourable colleague’s remarkable story, especially her time at the Senate of Canada. But it has been only a glimpse, a peek, at the garment of Senator Jaffer’s life and her persona. We already know about Senator Jaffer’s elegance and her impeccable taste in her real life and in her fashion choices.

But we know even better now that the fabric and, if I can say, the jewellery of her life, her values and her accomplishments are even more impressive. Let me pull on just one of those threads in the fabric of her life.

It is in her commitment to fundamental rights when it comes to national security and anti-terrorist legislation. You may not be aware that Senator Jaffer was appointed to the Senate just days after the 9/11 attacks. This was a time that was fraught for all Canadians. It was a time of great anxiety, but it was a time particularly of great concern for Muslims, when Muslims were singled out for special scrutiny because of concerns around anti‑terrorism. To that issue and to the anti-terrorism bill that was tabled in 2015 — Bill C-51 — Senator Mobina Jaffer had this to say: “This bill will not keep us safe, but is just a rhetoric that will divide us.”

She continued, “I want us to work together to keep each other safe.”

In light of contemporary discussions around national security and fears of foreign interference and so on, we would do well to heed the reminder of Senator Jaffer.

Colleagues, it is rare that there is a lieutenant-governor in our chamber recognizing and paying tribute to a departing colleague. I’m so honoured that I can, on her behalf, offer a few words to Senator Jaffer.

Here is a quote from Her Honour Janet Austin:

Expelled from Uganda in 1972 by dictator Idi Amin, she found a home in Canada and built a life of great public service, guided by the tenets of her Ismaili-Muslim faith.

Throughout her life, she has been a compelling voice for pluralism, human rights, international peace and the prevention of violence against women and children.

Thank you, Senator Jaffer, for everything you have done to build understanding among diverse cultures.

Thank you.

Hon. René Cormier [ + ]

Honourable senators, Senator Jaffer speaks six languages with her voice, but she speaks thousands with her heart.

An ardent defender of human rights, particularly women’s rights, Senator Jaffer has also demonstrated an unwavering commitment to defending linguistic rights throughout her remarkable career in the Senate.

Dear Mobina, you provided invaluable support to the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages during its study of the modernization of the Official Languages Act, particularly as a member of the steering committee. You were also a powerful advocate who highlighted the need to strengthen access to immersion in your home province of British Columbia. In a speech on October 5, 2017, you said, and I quote:

 . . . there is a major French-language and French immersion education crisis in my province. Young people, immigrants, and all Franco-Columbians have the right to be able to express themselves in the language of their choice. This is not just a matter of education. It is a matter of Canadian identity.

Senator Jaffer, we understand why British Columbia’s francophone community has always recognized and appreciated your work, as shown by this message received yesterday from the Fédération des francophones de la Colombie-Britannique, which I have been asked to share with you in this chamber. I will quote an excerpt, as follows:

 . . . Senator Jaffer has always been a staunch supporter of our community and we have fond memories of her enthusiasm for promoting the Francophonie far from Ottawa, on the shores of the Pacific. On behalf of the francophone community, the current president of the FFCB, Marie-Nicole Dubois, is very grateful to Senator Jaffer for the many years she has worked to ensure the future of the French fact.

The former president of the FFCB, Padminee Chundunsing, who had the pleasure and privilege of working with Senator Jaffer for many years also wanted to thank Senator Jaffer for her support and her work on issues such as French immersion, the improvement of the Action Plan for Official Languages and employment centres.

Dear Mobina, throughout your career, you have also fought for the rights of immigrants and young people. Your ability to listen, your collaborative spirit and your sense of diplomacy make you an example to us all.

You have an extraordinary talent for asserting your opinions loud and clear, but with great kindness and elegance, while keeping a big smile on your face.

Dear Mobina, I will close by quoting something that you said in this chamber in March 2017 when the British Columbia francophone youth parliament was being held. You said the following, and I quote:

 . . . I would like to remind senators of the importance we must place on the opinions and different ideas of our young people. It is our duty, as senators, to listen to them, to encourage them to get involved, and to remind them that no matter their gender, sexual orientation religion, or age, they have a role to play in our society, and not just today’s society, but also the society of the future.

We are taking your message to heart, senator. We wish you good health, much joy and many happy moments with your loved ones — as many as it takes to match the generosity of your heart. Thank you.

Hon. Julie Miville-Dechêne [ + ]

Honourable senators, so many things have been said. I too want to pay tribute to the Honourable Senator Mobina Jaffer, a passionate and caring feminist.

We met five and a half years ago under difficult circumstances. Senator Jaffer was the sponsor of Bill C-48, on banning oil tankers along the entire north shore of British Columbia, work that she abruptly had to put on hold for medical reasons. I had no Senate experience but was Deputy Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, where this controversial bill was being studied. I had been asked to keep the sponsor informed, so I would call Mobina on a regular basis. If I felt she had the energy, I would tell her about the atmosphere in committee, any conflicts, the motions and my mistakes. Despite the strain she was under, Senator Jaffer would give me advice and, most of all, she would tell me not to worry, it was only politics, after all. Mobina was always dignified. I didn’t know her well, but her experience and resilience soon won me over.

Later, we worked together again on the committee she was chairing, the famous Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, when I was defending my bill to protect children from exposure to online pornography. Senator Jaffer was a kind chair, but she put me in my place a few times, especially when I lost my temper with a witness. Mobina Jaffer has always believed that Senate public bills are legitimate initiatives and she took mine seriously. The committee, which was made up of a number of legal experts, perhaps too many, was divided. It must not have been easy for her to organize this study behind the scenes, in the midst of the pandemic, to ensure that the arguments for and against were fairly heard.

On the sidelines, Senator Jaffer often gave me words of encouragement. At one point, I remember thinking that I was going to give up the fight even before clause-by-clause consideration, given how much criticism my bill had received. She encouraged me to see it through, despite the very real possibility of failure, because, as she said, we needed to protect children from online harm and find the right way to do it. It was up to me to find the way to do that. Giving up was not an option for her.

In short, Mobina, I want to close by telling you how much I admire you and care about you, my dear colleague and almost‑neighbour in the Senate. Your resilience taught me a valuable life lesson. Godspeed, my friend.

Hon. David M. Arnot [ + ]

Honourable senators, I join you in celebrating the remarkable career and enduring contributions of our friend Mobina Jaffer. I met Mobina 33 years ago in 1991, when Judge Douglas Campbell, the director of the Western Judicial Education Centre, invited her to come to Saskatchewan to meet partners who were designing a three-day judicial education program studying race discrimination, gender discrimination and Indigenous issues.

Mobina’s intervention in the conference was groundbreaking. We were helping judges understand the social context within which their decisions were occurring. Judges can make mistakes when they don’t understand the social context. She clearly communicated the concept of intersectionality and how it can be a compounding negative effect on racialized and marginalized people, maintaining perpetual inequity.

Her story is etched in my memory. She spoke of working against gender discrimination for many years, and now she was standing at the front of the line with other women. Then she learned that she had to go to the back of another line because she was a woman of colour.

Her lessons were effective, and they contributed directly to a new model of judicial education in Canada. Our colleague Senator Jaffer is a force for action and change. She has steadfastly amplified the voices of the marginalized and vulnerable, including religious minorities and refugees. Of her own experience, Senator Jaffer has said:

There are few places in the world where a refugee can become a Senator — Canada is the only place I know it can happen for sure, because it happened to me.

She is a testament to the contributions of refugees who have championed and strengthened the Canadian values of inclusion, diversity and opportunity.

Indeed, the Aga Khan has observed that Canada is the most successful pluralistic society in the world. Mobina Jaffer is a proof-positive embodiment of that observation.

As she retires from the Senate, I reflect on how she enriched the very fabric of Canadian society. Mobina had a profound influence on judicial education and a profound influence on me as a senator from day one.

Mobina, thank you for your extraordinary service, your passionate advocacy and your unyielding commitment to justice. Congratulations, Mobina, on a truly distinguished career.

Hon. Marilou McPhedran [ + ]

Honourable senators, most Honourable Senator Jaffer, time travel with me back some 20 years. You’re a researcher at York University, and you got a small grant to work with Afghan women who fled the Taliban to build their lives in Canada. With them, you’re organizing a leadership capacity-building workshop. These Afghan women — soon to be Canadians — ask you to bring women parliamentarians to talk with them about how to be leaders in Canada, so you reach out with an invitation to a long list of members of Parliament, or MPs, and senators. Two MPs and one senator said yes. That one from the Red Chamber was Senator Mobina Jaffer.

When I gave her the time options for one hour on the program, she asked, “How long is the program? How long is the workshop?” And upon learning that intergenerational Afghan women and girls were meeting for two full days at the university then travelling to Ottawa for a day of parliamentary meetings, she promptly said, “I’ll be there.” When I persisted in trying to confirm a full hour of her time, she said, “Let me be clear: I’m coming, and I’m staying for the whole time — this is too important.”

Not only did Senator Jaffer stay with us for every moment of those two days, she travelled with us on the train from Toronto to Ottawa, and, as we continued to capacity build en route, she took me aside and told me what needed to happen that night when we got to Ottawa.

And so at the Ottawa hotel that evening when all of us were encircled together preparing our parliamentary agenda, we followed Mobina’s advice. The non-Afghan women stepped back. The Afghan women stepped forward to signify that the leaders’ voices the next day on Parliament Hill would be those of Afghan women.

I am so grateful for the seven years I’ve had in this chamber with you, Mobina, for your wisdom, your generosity, your courage and your countless kindnesses to me and so many others. Dear Mobina, thank you, meegwetch, asante.

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