Thursday, September 23, 2021

Somali immigrants find their place in Canadian politics

Hawa Yahia Mire, a parliamentary candidate in Canada’s September 20 election, is blazing a path that she hopes other Somali Canadian women will follow.

“We are both prosperous and struggling in a new place,” Meyer said in an interview of Canada’s growing Somali immigrant community.

“It is important for as many young Somali women as possible to see themselves in Canadian politics. I encourage all readers in Somalia to push people they know who live in Canada to run for office and imagine a new world for themselves.”

Mir, who represented the left-wing New Democratic Party in the Toronto constituency, was one of two Somali-born immigrants who sought a seat in the next parliament for the first time. The other is Shibo Mohamed, who represents Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s centrist Liberal Party in a constituency in western Alberta.

Nor will they be the first Canadians of Somali descent to enter parliament. This honor belongs to Ahmed Husen, the current cabinet minister of the Trudeau government, responsible for family, children and social development issues. The current Toronto seat is being contested by Mill. He is seeking re-election.

In another Somali Canada, former refugee Ali Dolu was elected as the provincial legislature of the Atlantic Coastal Province of Scotia on behalf of the Liberal Party a few weeks ago.

The Somali-born Faisal Hassan (Faisal Hassan) is located in the Ontario legislature, which includes the national capital Ottawa, and the Somali diaspora has become one of the strongest immigrant groups.

“For many of us who were born in Somalia but came here to Canada as children, we’ve known a rich cultural heritage inside of a new home,” Mire told VOA when asked about what she hopes to accomplish if she is elected.

“There are many young people in Canada who are working hard to build a future for themselves that is challenged by unaffordable housing, low employment opportunities and the perceptions surrounding Somalis in the country and the rest of the world.”

Although Canada is known as a country that welcomes immigrants, Somali-born residents are often victims of xenophobic anti-immigration sentiments, and, Mill said, politics is not always a place that welcomes women of color.

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“As someone new to politics, I know that this system is not designed for people like me-for women, immigrants, black people in general,” Mill said. “As a result, I feel that politics does not always serve our community adequately. I am very happy to be able to do this work because it needs to change — I want to be part of this change.”

Somali immigrants have also achieved success in American politics.

“During my tenure as the U.S. ambassador to Somalia, I visited many cities and towns in the United States,” former U.S. ambassador to Somalia Stephen Schwartz said in an interview. “I am always shocked by the leadership roles that many Somali Americans have acquired and the respect they have received from local officials.”

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Mill said that U.S. Congressman Ilhan Omar from Minnesota may be the most well-known Somali-American politician, and she has always been her inspiration.

“I’m learning from leaders who preceded me and broke this pattern, people like Ilhan Omar. From my short time I knew there was still a lot of work to do,” she said.

But in a new country, politics is not the only way to succeed, said Osman Ali, executive director of the Etobicoke Canadian Association of Somalia, who described Canada as “a beautiful country” and “a good place to raise children.”

“If you are young, strong and willing to work, every country loves you. It’s not just Canada,” Ali told VOA.

“My advice to you is that you have to consider what you bring to Canada. If you don’t have any trade, learn something. Learn to drive; get a driver’s license. Learn something.”

Ali added: “So if you don’t have enough education, you can contribute to Canadian labor. If you have education, improve yourself. Improve your English. Improve your computer skills.”


Somali immigrants find their place in Canadian politics
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