Somali Canadians React to Ahmed Hussen’s Appointment as Minister of ImmigrationWritten by Chelby Daigle
In the wake of the news that MP Ahmed Hussen has been appointed to the position of Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Muslim Link reached out to first and second generation Somali Canadians from across the country to get their reflections on what this appointment means for them. While for many Muslims, the appointment of another Muslim to Trudeau’s cabinet is seen as a victory against rising Islamophobia, for Somali Canadians, it means something far greater-hope for a brighter future in Canada.
Fatah Awil, student of Health Studies & Psychology at University of Toronto-Scarborough
My initial thoughts upon hearing the news were not one of surprise or bewilderment, but rather of a deep sigh of relief as if a weight of negativity had been lifted. With all of the bigotry and rhetoric coming from elected officials on the other side of the border, this provides for us a shining example of the beauty of inclusivity when it is coupled with merit. Our image as a country was already one of inclusivity, but what I believe this appointment does is send a strong and clear message to the rest of the world. An individual should never be held back from achieving their dreams because of their faith, ethnicity, or background, but rather they should be judged by their track record. Ahmed in a way represents my Grandfather in particular; both have struggled for what they believe is right, and have done so as refugees and through great adversity. He has shown us all what Black Muslim excellence looks like. An important point, especially off the heels of discussions brought up in the Muslim Community recently.
Ayan Tani, student of Political Science at the University of Ottawa
We know Somalis weren't exactly welcomed to this country with open arms. There was no government-sponsored refugee program to settle Somalis seeking asylum. Amendments were made to immigration law that discouraged refugee claimants forcing them to remain "stateless". There's even an anecdote I've often heard from my elders that minsters in parliament argued that we could make it here on our own using our "nomadic traditions". Not to mention all of the barriers to settlement and lack of support. So to see Ahmed Hussen named Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, it just feels like something from the Twilight Zone. I don't expect him to be a champion for migrant justice but I can't help but feel joyous about the acknowledgement of the Somali resettlement story. Mr. Hussen's position brings much needed visibility to the Somali community: representation for Somali youth, a seat at the table for voices that deserve to be heard.
Mariam Musse, student Political Science at the University of Ottawa
This is great news! This gives hopes to refugees and immigrants not only from the Somali community but also to the Black community as well. Ahmed Hussen came to this country as a refugee at a young age and he has now been appointed the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. Can we just take that in for a second? His appointment does not only bring success to him personally but also to my mom, to my aunt and to my Somali neighbors that all struggled to come to this country. If one succeeds we all succeed.
Maryan Issa, student of Nursing at Ryerson University in Toronto
Ahmed Hussen's victory feels like my personal victory. I volunteered with his campaign and to see a refugee be appointed Minister of Immigration is the 'rags to riches', 'started from the bottom', positive story my community needs right now.
Many Somalis are overjoyed and are excited but are still very wary. We have been hurt too many times with promises of a better future for our community to not have a little hesitancy in our hearts. Many times Somali “community leaders” come to a very marginalized group of people, ask for support, promise aid/access to resources/access to better programs only to find that there is no return; their hopes were used to advance these people’s professional lives. Many programs and initiatives have been started by opportunists. And to be honest, it mimics what’s going on back home with the corruption and false foreign so-called “aid”.
Mumina Egal, student of Political Science and Criminology at the University of Ottawa
Representation matters. To see someone Somali hold one of the highest positions in government right here in Ottawa, is immensely inspiring for a young Black Muslim woman like myself. It acts as a catalyst for Somalis globally showcasing that we can achieve anything we put our minds to. To see someone so proudly own their Somalinimo (Somali Identity) as well as their Canadian identity whilst occupying a high position in government, is comforting as I often feel a sort of mental statelessness as a second generation Canadian born Somali. I often am perceived as Westernized and unauthentically Somali to Somali folks back home while here in Canada, I feel a sense of being unwelcomed as well as being perceived as not truly “Canadian”.
Additionally, often times the depiction of the average Somali boy/man in Canada is one of destitution, idleness, and criminality, when in reality we have Somali boys/men thriving in all arenas. Politically, I hope to see Mr. Hussen do more for Somalis who have immigrated and who are planning to immigrate to Canada vis a vis more comprehensive programs for housing, more accessible language programs, and stronger networks to find work. While Mr. Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada have fallen through on a large amount of their promises made during their campaign for election (i.e. electoral reform, Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project), I hope that Mr. Hussen can deliver on most of his promises which may sound a bit naive but I guess we shall see in due time.
Abdirahman Daheeye, a student of Electrical Engineering at Carleton University in Ottawa
The appointment of Ahmed Hussen actually took me of by a surprise, because with all brute honesty, I wasn't expecting a Somali-Canadian to be appointed as a minister anytime soon, let alone a Somali-Born Canadian. But against all odds, Ahmed proved to us, and first and foremost to himself, that he's capable of reaching that high and that is what makes him a truly inspirational role-model for Somali-Canadian youth and all the other youth of Canadian minorities. It is now up to our generation to take the torch even higher. I long for the day that the prime minister would be from a minority group. Of course any of this would not be happening without the will of Allah and we say thank you for that.
Ahmed Knowmadic Ali, the Artistic Director of Breath in Poetry in Edmonton
Although I am always skeptical of politicians and their promises, I am genuinely excited to see Ahmed Hussen being appointed to Minister of Immigration. It's beyond just the appointment of an immigrant to a position that deals with new immigrants and refugees. It is about giving equal opportunity to those who represent Canada. It is exciting to know that things are moving well enough that we can go from being called terrorist and criminals under the former government to being appointed into a position that welcomes new Canadians. I am happy and excited for the new minister. I hope he demonstrates to the best of his capacity the benefit of welcoming immigrants and refugees.
Asma Hagi, a student of Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton University in Ottawa
I am thrilled to see a Muslim and Somali man’s name being mentioned in the media in a positive light. I personally think that a big issue in addressing serious problems facing marginalised communities stems from lack of proper representation from the grassroots. Hussen, who has experienced many of these issues first hand, can share his ideas with the Prime Minster and become an active agent for addressing issues within our communities.
Idil Issa, a communications professional in Montreal
I wish Ahmed Hussen all the best as he manages this important portfolio; I hope he continues to improve the efficiency of Canada’s immigration system, creating a new reality where both newcomers to Canada and the country of Canada itself benefit. While I am anticipating nothing but good news during Ahmed Hussen’s tenure as Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, I will still be following his progress to ensure that he remains on track. It is important that he works to improve Canada’s immigration system, ensuring that people who look just like him have an easier time of making a better life for themselves while fostering a rich and positive legacy in Canada. I hope he does not fall into the lull that outgoing US President Barack Obama may have, in believing that a superficial change, the election of a Black president, made America post-racial. Discrimination, especially when it comes to immigration, is all too real. All the best, Ahmed Hussen, I’ll be watching your work as Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship with a perfect mixture of admiration and criticism.
Sheikh Said Ali Ahmed, Islamic studies teacher in Ottawa
I am happy to live in a country where a former refugee like me becomes a high profile minister. I will not say his appointment will be a magic solution to the problems faced by the Somali community as well as the systematic problems that most racialized communities face but at least it gives hope. As the election of Mr. Obama did not solve the problems of the Black community in the US, this appointment will not produce a better result for the community as a whole but at least it is better to see someone that you can relate to taking such a high position. Education and hard work is what helped Mr. Ahmed to achieve his dreams. I think those are the same things that will help our youth.
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