Death threats made Parliament no easy job for Iqra Khalid, but she’s ready for more
Photos by Mansoor Tanweer/Twitter

Death threats made Parliament no easy job for Iqra Khalid, but she’s ready for more

Iqra Khalid hopes her concentration on “keeping it local” during her single term representing the diverse riding of Mississauga–Erin Mills in Ottawa will propel her into a second term in next month’s federal election.

The Liberal incumbent is currently polling at 44.1 percent, according to 338Canada, with Conservative challenger Hani Tawfilis not too far off with 36.7 percent, as of Sept. 14. Also running in the riding are Remo Boscarino-Gaetano for the Green Party and People’s Party of Canada’s Hazar Alsabagh. No NDP candidate has yet been named.

“My priority for the first term was to really keep it local and to work on the issues that really mattered to my constituency. We are a majority made of minorities. There are about 43 different languages spoken in this riding; over 75 percent of the population here have post-secondary education; over half of them are first-generation immigrants,” the Pakistan-born Khalid said in an interview at her campaign headquarters. 

She said she held some roundtables and talked with seniors organizations and individuals to learn how to better serve members of that community. Mississauga’s population is aging. In 2006, people 65 and older made up only 9.1 percent of the city’s population. By 2031, that proportion is expected to increase to 23.3 percent, while young adults 20 to 39 will make up less than a quarter of the population. 

“There was a lot of demand for having a minister of seniors, and so I started a petition partnering with one of the seniors organizations, and we garnered about 8,000 signatures asking the prime minister to appoint a minister for seniors,” she said. As a result the government appointed Filomena Tassi as the Minister for Seniors.



An aging demographic means more pressure on hospitals, community centres and organizations that care for seniors. Mississauga received $127,780 from the New Horizons for Seniors federal grant program between 2017 and 2019, which went to six community organizations caring for seniors.     

But Khalid said “the number one topic” she receives emails on from constituents is climate change. She hopes to take on a broader role in Ottawa in tackling the issue if elected to a second term. Canada has committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. “I will be, hopefully, exploring what more we can do at a local level,” Khalid said, without elaborating on the subject.

Affordable housing is another issue important to local constituents. Khalid pointed to the federal government’s National Housing Strategy and the First Time Home Buyer Incentive as examples of what Ottawa is doing. “I feel that there could be more that we can do in partnership with the Region of Peel and in partnership with the province to have more and more affordable housing units, as more and more kids choose to stay at home just because of affordability.”

However, despite being a member of the ruling majority Liberals on Parliament Hill for the past four years, there has been very little investment in affordable housing in Mississauga or Peel Region. 

Development of affordable housing in the region has been slow for nearly two decades. Since 2001, only 1,742 affordable units have been constructed in Peel, the majority of those over the past decade. 

Only one project in Peel Region is listed as being supported under the Liberal's national housing strategy: $15 million for the Brampton Bramalea Christian Fellowship for a six-storey, 90-unit affordable housing building. 

The conversation ranged over a host of local problems that Khalid seemed knowledgeable about, though she could offer few specifics on how to wrestle effectively with them.

Perhaps she has good reason to be watchful of her words. Khalid has been the subject of sexist and Islamophobic harassment, particularly after introducing motion M-103 in 2017, which called on the federal government to commit to studying systemic racism and condemn Islamophobia. Conservative MPs complained that the wording was unclear and might lead to suppressing free speech. 

Peel Regional Police began patrols of her constituency office after it was revealed that some 50,000 vitriolic and racially charged messages, including death threats, had inundated her communication channels. She read some of those aloud in Parliament, proving her point about Islamophobia. Her motion passed, and a study was commissioned that led to a $23 million commitment to anti-racism initiatives. 

That incident and other work on human rights issues, as a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, led to her being named one of Chatelaine magazine’s Women of the Year for 2017.



Khalid also faced vitriol after the Jewish organization B’nai Brith complained in August 2018 that she had given a volunteer appreciation certificate to an alleged anti-Semite, Amin El Maoued, the public relations chief of Palestine House. She promptly rescinded the award, apologized and explained that, “I was not aware of some of Amin El Maoued's past views — and only he can speak to them — but we all must stand against anti-Semitism and discrimination in all its forms.”

Khalid is not alone in facing threats as a woman in national office. A 2018 survey by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which conducted Interviews with 123 women across 45 European nations, found that 85.2 percent of MPs had suffered psychological violence over their time in office; 46.9 percent had received death threats; and 58.2 percent had been subjected to sexist attacks on social media. 


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