My name is Arif Virani and I am the member of Parliament for Parkdale-High Park. I am the proud father of two young boys, Zakir and Nitin, I raise in Roncesvalles with my wonderful wife, Suchita.
I came to Canada as a refugee from Uganda in 1972, after my parents, my sister and I have been forced to flee the dictatorship of Idi Amin. We arrived deprived of all possessions but excited to start a new life in Canada – the country on the other side of the world that opened our arms and served as a refuge. Like any family newcomers, we experienced some difficult times. Now that my parents could not offer us financially, they were filling with support and coaching. They instilled in me values such as honesty, hard work, determination, and most importantly, education. Although neither one nor the other are went to college, my parents made sure that I would have the chance to attend post-secondary studies.
Thus I began studies at McGill University – among others through a mix of student loans and scholarships from McGill and the Aga Khan Foundation. In 1994, I graduated from McGill with a Joint Honours BA in History and Political Science as well as an honorable mention for my academic results. The following year, I made use of ten lucky winners across the country who have had the chance to take part in the Parliamentary Internship Program in Ottawa. Through my involvement at the committee level, I was able to closely monitor Parliament’s efforts, first, to impose harsher penalties on those convicted of hate crimes and, secondly, to recognize the requests of gender-based asylum under the Geneva Convention.
Following my visit on Parliament Hill, I studied law at the University of Toronto. Outside of the classroom, I focused my efforts to help those in need in the area of immigration and criminal law. I received my Bachelor of Laws from the University of Toronto in 1998 and, as major of my promotion. Subsequently, I did an internship at Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, here in Toronto, and after being called to the Bar in 2001, I started my career as associate attorney in the mid and corporate litigation Business.
In 2003, I decided to combine my interest in public service with my career path when I joined as a lawyer in the Constitutional Law, at the Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario. In this role, I was able to take control of the files related to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the division of powers. As crown attorney, I had the chance to act on behalf of the citizens of Ontario, and always with a view to ensure the administration of justice in the province, respect the rule of law and the protection of the public interest. During a sabbatical at the Ministry of Attorney General, I spent a year as an associate attorney at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda, located in Arusha, Tanzania.
Throughout my studies and my career thirteen years in law, I have always been driven by a sense of duty towards human rights and access to justice. I am one of the founders of a legal aid clinic: the South Asian Legal Clinic (Ontario SALCO). Besides, I system based in the Board of Directors of it for almost eight years, in particular to ensure its annual funding. I also worked as an analyst for the Canadian Commission on Human Rights in Ottawa and as an investigator with the Human Rights Commission in Montreal.
I work tirelessly to live compassion, fairness and openness in the community where I live, Parkdale-High Park. I am a volunteer with Roncyworks – a citizens’ initiative that aims to clean and maintain the cleanliness of Roncesvalles Avenue, to the delight of traders and residents quarter.
I am also very proud to be a member and support The Redwood, a shelter that provides shelter for women and children fleeing abuse, just like my family 40 years ago.
I also acknowledge the invaluable contribution of many institutions in our community. That is why I am proud to support the St. Joseph’s Health Centre Foundation, especially the Just for Kids Clinic and the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Program, as the food bank community of Parkdale.
I find it particularly regrettable that several individuals in our community are struggling to feed themselves, especially as I know what we’re capable of when we work together and that we roll up our sleeves. The reconstruction of Jamie Bell playground in High Park is an example that demonstrates what may perform hundreds of parents who join their efforts.
My goal as a member is to cultivate this spirit of collaboration and bring people of the community to put their shoulder to the wheel to strengthen the links that weave us in our community.
© Arif Virani, 2017. Tous droits réservés.