Canada 140/150 : Amira Elghawaby

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Listening to Diversity's Call

By Amira Elghawaby

Have you ever heard the sound of a family of loons, splashing playfully in a lake following a rainfall? Their unmistakeable calls echo off the shimmering water and outwards into the verdant slopes, covered in age-old white pines, balsam firs, cottonwoods and maples.

It is in the depths of summer, as in the depths of Canada’s other glorious seasons that one truly finds the heart and soul of this great land.

It is in the diversity of its wildlife; the loons, the herons, the robins, the geese, the hummingbirds; the otters, the beavers, the deer, the moose. It is in the diversity of the First Nations who once traveled frequently on its waterways, trudging through the prickly undergrowth of forests then unexplored.

Canada’s history is young, yet includes a rich tapestry of joy and sadness, pride and shame. It is a land that is full of mystery and frankness, open yet closed at times.

Canada is the only true home I’ve ever known and I’m proud to be one of its citizens. I stand on guard for Canada; upholding and protecting the cherished principles and proud heritage of all that is honourable and just. This is a land glorious in its multiplicities and stronger for it.

As a journalist and human rights advocate for over a decade, I have been privileged with a front row seat to witness the various issues and challenges facing Canadians in the 21st century, and specifically impacting on its minority communities.

Canadian Muslims in four different Ontario cities coordinated a peace rally to speak out against violent extremism during winter, 2015. Photo Credit: Omar Mahfoudhi, 2015 | Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Tawakkol Karman (left) interviewed by Amira Elghawaby (right) about the importance of civic engagement during Karman's visit to Canada in 2015. 

At CBC Radio, I worked with a team of dedicated producers and journalists to ensure that stories from diverse communities were shared with the wider mainstream. From stories about service agencies trying to keep up with a constantly evolving multicultural clientele, to foreign-trained professionals figuring out a way back into their fields, the topics were as complex as they were significant for all of us.

Later, these insights into the specific trials faced by ethnocultural and religious minority communities would help inform my work at the National Council of Canadian Muslims. Joining one of the country’s leading national Canadian Muslim organizations to advocate for civil liberties and human rights for all was a natural progression.

Indeed, standing up for the rights and freedoms, as well as promoting mutual respect and understanding, of diverse communities, is to stand up for intrinsic Canadian values of inclusion, acceptance, and integration.

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PHOTO Ottawa's Muslim community join local Church groups in providing free breakfast and snacks to students of Carleton University, establishing The Interfaith Pause Table as a regular fixture of the bi-annual event.

John Ralston Saul, one of Canada’s eminent philosophers, noted that our commitment to egalitarianism is in fact testament to the Aboriginal cultures Canadians owe much to.

This appreciation for the innate value of every living being, with all of our differences, is a product of indigenous cultures that were nurtured by a vibrant, diverse, and breathtaking environment and landscape. This is Canada’s greatest legacy. We should all hear its magnificent call…

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