Malala’s nudge to Parliament Teen activist an honorary Canadian, asks country to lead
The irrepressible Malala Yousafzai, the teenage Nobel Peace Prize winner who survived a Taliban bullet in 2012, delivered an enduring message of hope, perseverance and inspiration Wednesday — and did it as an honorary Canadian citizen.
Yousafzai used her newfound membership in the Canadian family and towering presence on Parliament Hill to apply a little friendly pressure, calling on the country to go beyond honorifics and take a global lead in ensuring more girls can go to school.
“I know where I stand,” Yousafzai said during a moving speech to a joint session of Parliament that was punctuated frequently by thunderous standing ovations. “If you stand with me, I ask you to seize every opportunity for girls’ education over the next year.”
The 19-year-old called on Canada to make girls’ education the centrepiece of its work as host of the G7 next year something that would bring full circle the process of how the Pakistani activist became Canada’s sixth honorary citizen.
The accolade was originally to be conferred by former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, whose inner circle thought honouring Yousafzai would be a logical offshoot of their government’s focus on women and girls’ health when Canada last led the G7.
She was to have received the honour on Oct. 22, 2014, but on that day a gunman rampaged through the very building where Yousafzai stood Wednesday.
“The man who attacked Parliament Hill called himself a Muslim, but he did not share my faith,” she said.
“I am a Muslim and I believe that when you pick up a gun in the name of Islam and kill innocent people, you are not a Muslim anymore.”
The gunman “shared the hatred” of the man who attacked the Quebec City mosque in January, who killed civilians and a police officer in London three weeks ago, who killed 132 school children at Pakistan’s Army Public School in Peshawar, she said.
“The same hatred as the man who shot me.”
Malala sang Canada’s praises throughout her speech.
“‘Welcome to Canada’ is more than a headline or a hashtag,” she said. “It is the spirit of humanity that every single one of us would yearn for, if our family was in crisis. I pray that you continue to open your homes and your hearts to the world’s most defenceless children and families — and I hope your neighbours will follow your example.”