The Muslim Law Students’ Association at U of T and the Osgoode Hall Law School co-hosted a discussion with Yasir Naqvi, the Attorney General of Ontario, and Canada’s first Muslim Attorney General, on March 26. Naqvi spoke about the importance of diversity, inclusion, and representation in civil service.
Born in Pakistan, Naqvi said he was no stranger to the struggle against oppression and inequality. As lawyers, both of his parents were actively involved in Pakistan’s pro-democracy movement, leading his father to be imprisoned for leading a pro-democratic march. Naqvi highlighted that this was a defining moment in his life, and for his career trajectory. After his family’s immigration to Canada, he described getting involved in the political process as “a given.”
Naqvi emphasized to students entering the legal profession that a legal education is “not just another professional designation… [There is a] broader and important responsibility that comes with you as a lawyer.” These responsibilities include upholding the rule of law, advocating for the rights of others, and challenging the status quo, not defending it.
“You gotta believe in yourself and your values and your compass. I don’t think I have… when I was practicing law or now as a politician, compromised my values. In fact, that is why I’ve always felt that you gotta step up and have a voice.”
When asked how he transitioned out of private practice and into politics, Naqvi said that this was a twofold process. His advice to anyone interested in entering politics was to first join a political party. He noted that “political parties are the key to our democracy… because without political parties, we wouldn’t have the variety of ideas.”
He added that one should become involved in their community to develop “a depth of understanding on what issues are engulfing people.” Naqvi described the world of politics as a “team sport,” emphasizing the importance of garnering a following of people and having a close circle of supporters.
After the talk, Aaqib Mahmood, a U of T law student, expressed the pride in seeing a member of the South Asian community in a position of power. “Representation is important, especially here in Canada, so it’s good to see equality of opportunity in effect.”
Saquiba Rahman, a law student at Osgoode Hall Law School, said, “I really liked the fact that he was so candid. He spoke about his life experience openly and we also got the chance to interact with him directly.”