Posted: Tue Mar 25, 2003 6:32 am Post subject: Mobina Jaffer
Ugandan Shines in Canada
New Vision (Kampala)
March 15, 2003
Posted to the web March 18, 2003
Mobina Jaffer is a Ugandan-born Asian lady working as a senator in
British Columbia in Canada. She fled Uganda in 1975 during Idi
Patrick Luganda writes that she is an accomplished lawyer and
special Canadian peace envoy to Sudan. She has also won several
prestigious appointments in successive Canadian governments.
If my grandfather Hajji Kasule was still alive,
he would have brought a brass band to
escort me from Entebbe airport to
It would have been a hilarious welcome. I
am a Ugandan by birth and deep in my
heart I will always be a Ugandan," says
Kasule's granddaughter in Canada.
Her smile is infectious. She smiles and you smile. Her father was the
son of the late Hajji Musa Kasule, who owned several buildings in
Wandegeya and many busses in Kampala. She lights up as she tells
of her loving grandfather.
"He was very wealthy. He was a great man and very developmental.
He would bring matooke and meat. I am sure that is what he would
have wished me to eat today," says Mobina Jaffer.
Like her grandfather and father, she is a Muslim. However, her
complexion is so light she passes for a white Canadian.
Then her hair is not curly like the Kasules of the Ngeye clan. It is like a
"My father is Asian. Hajji Musa Kasule adopted my father when he was
a boy. Since then, our families have been very close. I have fond
memories of Kasule. He even came to Canada to visit us in the
eighties with his wife," says Jaffer.
She is a citizen of Canada but cannot let go of her Ugandan roots: "I
would take up dual citizenship if Uganda allowed it. Although I am a
Canadian I am first and foremost a Ugandan at heart.
My sisters and brothers are here. I feel bad to hear of the suffering of
my people in northern Uganda. My sisters and their children being
abducted makes me sad," she says with sorrow.
She strongly believes achieving peace in Sudan will be the beginning
of peace spreading throughout the region. Senator Mobina Jaffer,
recently appointed by Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien as the
new special envoy for Sudan, wears a smile regularly, yet the task
ahead of her is momentous.
"The suffering in southern Sudan is tremendous. It is unacceptable that
after 40 years these people continue to suffer from the violence. I have
travelled extensively and seen the people in the camps. I have never
seen such levels of poverty. There were over 500 patients at the
world's biggest field hospital at Lokichokyo in northern Kenya," says
I have seen hundreds of patients with missing limbs writing in agony.
Although the people were not at the edge of starvation, they had no
roads, schools or health centres and lacked a semblance of civil
administration. The sick and injured had to travel to the Red Cross
field hospital in Kenya."
Her strategy to contribute to the peace process is to listen to all sides
of the conflict. She has met Sudan's president Bashir, top government
officials in Khartoum and rebel leaders in Southern Sudan. She has
also met Sudanese refugees and exiles in Canada and other
Her belief is that all the parties agreed on lasting peace. "I think there
was a real breakthrough in the Machakos peace process in Kenya. I
have not met a single voice that is not in for peace. Also, the
international community is putting lots of pressure to ensure there is
peace in Sudan," she says.
Her arrival in Uganda is part of her fact-finding mission. She will meet
President Yoweri Museveni and share her views on the peace
process in the region.
"We want real peace in Sudan. I believe it is the desire of President
Museveni to bring peace in Sudan and northern Uganda. I want to
learn how he views the Southern Sudan situation. I would want to know
what Uganda is doing," says Jaffer. Mobina Jaffer, the senator for
British Columbia, is passionate about relieving people of Sudan from
"It is important that we assess what contributions we can make after
the war has ended.
Already Canada is providing resources to enable the conflicting
parties to sit down and discuss. Other countries are also making their
contributions. The United States is providing monitoring teams," says
Hearing her speak and knowing her high profile position in Canada
makes one think she has been Canadian all her life.
She fled Uganda in 1975, no longer able to stand the unstable state of
the country of her birth.
Tears rolled down her face as she left the country she had known as
home for 22 years. Her two-year-old son and her husband were her
Once she gained refugee status in Canada, it was difficult for her to
forget their plight.
Jaffer was born in Nsambya hospital in 1951.
"We as a family are very proud of the strides that Mobina has
achieved since we left. She has risen to great heights and it really
gives us pride as a family. It is a pride for Uganda," says her father
Sherali Bandali Jaffer.
Sherali Jaffer, who has business interests in Uganda and Canada,
owns Fairway Hotel off Yusuf Lule road. He lives part of the year in
Uganda and the other half in West Vancouver in British Columbia,
An accomplished lawyer, Mobina has won several prestigious
appointments in successive Canadian governments.
It has been a long-steady climb to success. After earning her first law
degree from London University in 1972, she went for an executive
development programme at Simon Fraser University.
Since 1978, Jaffer has been a practising barrister and solicitor in
British Columbia with Thomas Dohm.
The partnership has expanded to include baby Azool who is following
in the mother's footsteps.
The law firm is now Dohm, Jaffer and Jeraj. Jaffer's daughter Farzana
is a model in Toronto.
Jaffer was made Queen's Counsel in February 1998. Her popularity in
the law profession is fast growing.
She has worked with refugees.
From 1994 Mobina has been working with the Immigration and
Refugee board on gender and race issues. That is perhaps what
makes her present appointment as Canadian peace envoy to Sudan
"I have been involved in bettering the quality of life of the
disadvantaged and the minority. These categories have less access
to rights and welfare services," says Jaffer.
She is proud to have got fine education from the Aga Khan schools
and the Uganda education system.
"I am lucky I had such a good education. I am also lucky to have a very
supportive husband," says a smiling Jaffer.
The UN Security Council will hold historic talks in Kenya, in a highly symbolic act, to address the conflict in Sudan. The meeting away from the New York headquarters will take place Nov. 18-19. Canada's special envoy for peace in the region, Senator Mobina Jaffer was in New York and Washington Oct. 21-22, with her own message: "We need to look at the whole of Sudan. The signing of the Southern agreement and Darfur need to run parallel," she said on the phone from New York City on Oct. 21.
Mr. Sherali Bandali Jaffer
Congratulations on Receiving Uganda's National Independence Medal
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise today to honour my father, Sherali Bandali Jaffer, who was recently decorated with Uganda's National Independence Medal, one of the highest awards granted by the government of Uganda. This medal, known as the Hero's Award, was first awarded by Queen Elizabeth II in 1962, at the time of Uganda's independence. It is an honour awarded to those individuals who have contributed significantly to Uganda's struggle to obtain independence, as well as to those who continue to work diligently to protect its independence.
My father has devoted his life to creating a strong, independent Uganda and is extremely proud to have represented his Ugandan brothers and sisters as a city councillor and as a member of parliament under President Obote's government.
In 1972, under the rein of Idi Amin, my father and our entire family were exiled and forced to leave Uganda, our country of birth, with nothing but the clothes on our backs. After seeking refuge in Vancouver and establishing successful businesses in Canada, my father chooses to continue to return to Uganda from time to time, as it is his place of birth.
Although my father contributed to the social, economic and political advancement of Uganda, his main focus has always been on the importance of education. Having personally sponsored over 1,000 Ugandan students and built a number of schools, including the Kibuli Mosque and School, now one of the best educational institutions in Uganda, my father has always firmly believed that investing in the education of young people would transform the lives of the most marginalized boys and girls and in turn help entire communities and countries to proper. During my travels, I have often crossed paths with individuals whom my father helped to educate, and I am truly humbled by the impact that he had on their lives. The importance my father placed on education also helped me to get to where I am today. Fifty years ago, when girls often did not receive higher education, my father sent me to England to study. It is because of his constant support, advice and guidance that I am able to rise before all of you today, in the Senate of Canada, and represent my province of British Columbia.
My father's love for Uganda comes second only to the love he has for his family. He is a proud father of one son, five daughters, four sons-in-law, one daughter-in-law, 13 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. We all consider ourselves exceptionally fortunate to be able to call such an amazing man our papa. Even in the darkest of times, he has always managed to bring light into our lives. Last night, I was incredibly touched to hear my grandson, Ayaan, say to my dad, "Papa, please return to Vancouver. I need you to sparkle my life. I miss you." I agree with my grandson. My father has indeed put a sparkle not only in our lives but also in the lives of many Ugandans.
1. Who inspired you to get involved in public life?
My father was a remarkable example to me by the way he lived his life: he was a politician in Uganda. I grew up seeing how he was respected by people of all backgrounds in a very divided country and it made me value the skill of bringing people together to better our world.
Senator Jaffer pictured with her parents.
2.What do you think are the biggest public policy issues facing Canada today?
Climate change and human rights issues.
3.Why should Canadians care about the Senate?
The Senate is one of the core institutions of our democracy and a democracy is as strong as its citizens’ engagement with the institutions that exist. Much of the healthy debate and dialogue on issues of importance to our country’s future happens between our colleagues in the Senate — it is extremely important for Canadians to pay attention, stay engaged and share their own thoughts with us to ensure we are heading in the right direction.
4. What legislative or committee work are you most proud of?
I value all of the work I have been fortunate to contribute to at the Senate since I joined in 2001. In all of my work I find a way to ensure to prioritize the protection of human rights for everyone. This is one of the most fundamental questions that, regardless of legislation, must be asked, and the values involved must be protected. To me, it is a privilege to be able to protect the rights of others, especially those who cannot advocate for themselves. These are, after all, the rights we are all entitled to.
5. What is a hidden gem in your region?
I am constantly in awe of how beautiful British Columbia is. I encourage Canadians to visit, and explore. We have it all – cities, mountains, islands and beaches. There is always something new to discover in BC, and that is why I am so proud to call it home.
6.What is the last book you read that you recommended to someone else?
The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill, and The Illegal, also by Lawrence Hill
7. What sports team do you support?
Since I’m from Vancouver, I have to say the Canucks – my grandson is already an ardent fan!
8. Why are you proud to be Canadian?
My family came to Canada when we were expelled from Uganda under then-dictator Idi Amin. Canada welcomed us, and by working hard and valuing Canadians I have been able to become a representative for the wonderful people of this country. There are few places in the world where a refugee can become a Senator – Canada is the only place I know it can happen for sure, because it happened to me. We are an accepting country, and we imagine the best in people — which gives people permission to strive to become their best selves in their own unique way. I think that is something to be very proud of.
"Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise today with great pride as I congratulate His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan on being awarded the inaugural Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship.
I would like to thank Madame Clarkson for recognizing the work His Highness the Aga Khan does for women and men both in Canada and abroad.
Just last week, many of us celebrated the International Day of the Girl. We posted on social media, we changed our Facebook pictures, and we committed to ensuring that girls around the world have access to education and equal opportunity.
While today this is something that seems like a basic human right, I am sure you will agree that 60 years ago this was not a common sentiment. However, it most certainly was in my household.
Even 60 years ago, the Aga Khan and his grandfather before him advocated for the rights of girls, proclaiming that if you have a son and a daughter and you can only afford to educate one, educate your daughter, because if you educate a man or a boy, you educate an individual, but if you educate a girl, you educate a family.
Honourable senators, it was because of the Aga Khan's commitment to educating girls that I received an education. In fact, I truly believe that everything I am and everything I have achieved is thanks to the work of His Highness and the support of my parents and my husband.
I am also extremely grateful that so many others, often in the most remote and vulnerable corners of this world, continue to feel the social impact of the work of His Highness. Today, thousands of young girls, just like myself, are born in Aga Khan hospitals and educated in Aga Khan schools.
Honourable senators, I understand that the Aga Khan has been a recipient of many great honours and awards. However, no award, statement or accolade could ever capture the impact he has had on my life and the lives of people all over the world.
Thank you, your Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, for all you have done and continue to do for me, for Canadians and for all of humanity. Thank you."
Liberal Sen. Mobina Jaffer says she has been diagnosed with cancer.
Jaffer unveiled the diagnosis Wednesday in a tweet where she asked for “good thoughts and prayers” as she awaits word on whether or not it has spread.
The senator from British Columbia told iPolitics she was working in Ottawa three weeks ago when she had to go to the hospital with a toe infection. Doctors discovered malignant melanoma in her right big toe. It was amputated last Friday.
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