MBE: Can you please start this interview off by giving us a brief introduction of yourself and your education?
MP Salma Zahid: I was born in UK and raised in Pakistan and was the oldest sibling with two younger brothers. My father was in the army and retired in 1986 as a Brigadier. Due to my father’s role in the army I grew up living in many different cities in Pakistan as my father was posted from one army station to the other. I am a mother of two young men, Umaid and Usman. I did my first Master’s Degree from Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad in Business Management. I did another Masters Degree in Educational Management at University of London in England. I then got married to my husband Salman Zahid in 1997 and moved to Canada in 1999.
MBE: As many of our readers currently having young children in school can you please shed some light on the importance of education?
MP Salma Zahid: : I was personally raised in a family where education was a top priority. My father was in the education core in the army and as a person his passion was education. These values were passed on to me and I truly believe education is one of the most important things in our current world. My father always told us when we were growing up that he would not leave property and a fortune behind for us but would give us a proper education to pave the path towards us becoming successful. I also believe that the role a teacher plays in children’s lives is very significant. Our leader PM Justin Trudeau was a former teacher and I believe this is what has inspired him to make education in Canada a top priority.
MBE: As someone who has immigrated in the last 20 years can you please describe your journey in Canada so far?
MP Salma Zahid: When a person first moves to Canada as an immigrant many aspects of life are very different from where they have come from. When my husband and I moved to Canada we both had a good educational background and my husband had good work experience working in the United States but still finding a proper footing was not easy with no Canadian experience. My first couple of years in Canada I spent as a stay home mom taking care of my young children. We started our lives in Toronto by renting an apartment in downtown Toronto by Sherbourne and Shuter. At the time my husband was working at a bank and I am not ashamed to say times were tough as my husbands salary was not very high at all and all of it went towards rent and taking care of our young children. These initial struggles though taught me a lot about life and me and my husband never lost our spirit or motivation because we knew that all of our efforts were for our children and this made it worth it. I had learnt this spirit from my father who also came from a large family and had to struggle and work hard to give his children a good life.
MBE: How did you start your political career in Canada?
MP Salma Zahid: As my elder children started school I wanted to relive my passion of education and decided to join the school council and eventually became the chair of the school council. In early 2013 the Conservative Govt. in Ontario introduced cuts to full day senior kindergarten at my son’s school. I decided to raise awareness about this and fight for cuts to education. I called on my MPP George Smitherman. I was able to get an appointment with the MPP George Smitherman and went to the meeting with my double stroller with two toddlers. I explained my issue to the MP and at the end of the meeting his said he did not expect Pakistani women to be like how I was and was so impressed that he asked for my resume and offered me a job working under his constituency. I eventually started as a part time and this time I spent at the MPP’s office was great experience for me and MPP George Smitherman eventually became my political mentor. I worked with the MPP till 2010 when he lost his bid for mayor to Rob Ford. These early years gave me a very good base and gave me the confidence that I can make a change for the better for my community and for Canada. When I first came to Canada I never thought that this is the path I would take but I am very happy that my life lead me to this path.
MBE: What are you personal hobbies and how do you like spending your time away from work?
MP Salma Zahid: To be honest as a politician and a mother I rarely get any time off. As a mother I really enjoy cooking for my children. I like cooking traditional Pakistani food that my children very much enjoy. I also take enjoyment in doing small things for my children such as ironing their clothes and helping with their schoolwork. When I was growing up my mother would do these things for me and I feel this has been passed onto me.
MBE: Can you end by giving a message to the community and other immigrants such as yourself?
MP Salma Zahid: Wherever I go I always tell people that Canada is truly a great country. There are not many other countries in the world that give immigrants the opportunities that Canada does. If I a woman from Pakistan can come to Canada and have the successful political career I have, then all immigrants, men and women, can come to this wonderful nation and not only help themselves but help their communities and their country. In Canada better is always possible.