Malala Yousafzai has been officially made an honorary citizen of Canada. The Nobel Peace Prize winner was granted the honour today in a ceremony on Parliament Hill.
Yousafzai, better known as Malala, then became the youngest person to address Parliament. “This is my first trip to Canada, but not my first attempt,” she said according to a transcript. Malala, and her father landed in Toronto on October 22, 2014; the same day as terrorist attack on Parliament Hill. Security advised them to reschedule, and they returned to London, UK.
Malala used her speech to speak out against terrorism. “I am a Muslim and I believe that when you pick up a gun in the name of Islam and kill innocent people, you are not a Muslim anymore,” she said. She credited Canada’s sense of unity. “you refuse to be divided. Canadians — wherever they were born and however they worship — stand together. And nothing proves this more than your commitment to refugees, she said.
Between November 2015, and February 2016 Canada brought 25,000 Syrian refugees into the country. The commitment was part of the Liberals 2015 election platform.
Yousafzai’s honorary citizenship began as a Conservative initiative to highlight a policy focus on maternal, newborn, and child health. “How can we bestow one of our greatest honours on her? We landed on that because it was the most significant thing we could do to draw attention to her work,” Rachel Curran said in media reports. Curran was former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Director of Policy. Former Immigration Minister Chris Alexander administered the technical side of the citizenship process.
Yousafzai joins five others as honorary citizens. They are: the Dalai Lama, the Aga Khan, Nelson Mandela, Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi, and Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg.