By Senator Mobina Jaffer: When I was appointed to the Senate of Canada in 2001, I remember the first day that I stood in the Red Chamber and looked around at my colleagues. I was surrounded by former lawyers, judges, activists, ex-military professionals and distinguished journalists. Many of these individuals had given their lives to their professions, and now they stood here with me, ready to try to make a positive difference in the lives of Canadians.
Today, thirteen years later, the senate has been going through one of the worst periods of scrutiny since its inception. Yet, through all of this, or perhaps despite it, there are still senators who continue to champion their causes with vigor.
Senator Anne Cools and Senator Don Meredith are two senators who have continued to work hard for equality.
This past month Senator Cools achieved a milestone by reaching thirty years as a sitting senator. She was appointed by Prime Minister Trudeau as the first Afro-Canadian senator to grace the red Chamber. Through her experience working with Afro-Canadian women and youth, and as the founder of Canada’s first women’s shelter, Senator Cools has been an effective champion for the rights of women and children. She has also been a strong advocate for due process and thoughtful debate.
For over thirty years, Senator Cools has never shied away from a difficult discussion or debate. From my own experience I know that it takes courage to stand up for what is right especially when the odds are stacked against you. Yet Senator Cools never ceases to find the courage to speak to her convictions and principles. She is as impassioned today as she was thirty years ago when was first appointed to the Senate.
Likewise, Senator Meredith has been passionate about the causes that he believes in. He was appointed to the senate two years ago, yet in that short time he has been steadfast in his pursuit of equality for all Canadians. Raised in some difficult neighborhoods in Canada, Senator Meredith knows what pressures affect impoverished youth in his community.
As a member of the Senate Human Rights Committee, Senator Meredith’s experience working with underprivileged youth has brought a very essential perspective to the table. He has been outspoken about creating a national strategy to reduce violence amongst youth. He has also been very effective at ensuring that those World War heroes of colour, who have long since passed away, are given adequate observance today.
Senator Meredith has used his faith, not as a wedge between communities but as a point of common ground. In a world that is exceptionally divided, whether it is through race, religion, income or ideology, Senator Meredith has been sure to give everyone an equal voice, both in his work as a senator and as a private citizen.
During this year’s Black History Month, I want to recognize Senator Meredith and Senator Cools for their work towards the betterment of our communities. They are examples of two senators who are truly making a difference in Canada.