Words of hope from a senator: Mobina Jaffer addresses women’s and aboriginal rights

Brendan Kergin, News Editor  Ω

Appointed to the Senate in 2001, Mobina Jaffer has spent a decade advocating for women’s rights, Africa and a more harmonious culture in Canada’s upper house.

Friday Nov. 4 she brought those experiences to TRU.

With a crowd filling the seats and spilling onto the floor in the Grand Hall she spoke about a variety of issues facing Canada and the world.

Central to the talk were women’s rights. While Canadian women do enjoy a much higher level of equality to other nations, work needs to be done to protect those rights and make sure they aren’t eroded, Jaffer said.

Other countries’ situations worry her more however.

“I’m petrified about orthodox Islamic law after the Arab Spring,” she said.

Libya, Tunisia and other countries are facing the situation now, that after decades of dictatorships repressing religion to a certain extent, could see the return to Islamic fundamentalism.

Jaffer sees this as a threat to women’s safety. She described how Sharia Law requires witnesses to the act of rape for a woman’s claim of rape to be validated.

If no one comes forward, the rape never happened.

In Canada she is particularly concerned about the rights of aboriginal people.

“We still have a long way to go before we treat aboriginal people equal,” she said.

She also expressed concern with the scrapping of the long gun registry in Canada by the current conservative-led parliament.

However she does see Quebec’s possible legal action against the federal government as a positive.

Despite all the pain and suffering she described in the world, Jaffer did have words of hope.

She advised students to travel, learn a second language and to not be overwhelmed with the problems facing our world.

“I stand before you truthfully to say, you can change the world,” she said.

She also spoke directly to the nursing students in attendance telling them she was jealous of their career choice.

“You have chosen the most amazing career.”

Jaffer is a family lawyer who was appointed to the Canadian Senate in 2001 by Jean Chrétien as a B.C. representative.

She was born in Uganda in 1949, educated in England and practices law out of the Vancouver firm Dohm, Jaffer and Jeraj.

She encouraged those in attendance to become more active in politics, even inviting them to help her create a bill for Ottawa looking at how to help provide affordable medicine to Africa.

If you wish to get in contact with her, her email address is mjaffer@sen.parl.gc.ca and her website is www.mobinajaffer.ca.