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The first mosque allowed to be built in Canada — the Al Rashid Mosque — was built in Edmonton under Social Credit Alberta premier “Bible” Bill Aberhart in 1938.
The first Muslim named to a cabinet post in Canada was Larry Shaben, by Alberta premier Peter Lougheed in 1979. Alberta elected Canada’s first Muslim MP, Rahim Jaffer of Edmonton, and Canada’s first Hindu MP, Deepak Obhrai, from Calgary-East.
Calgary was the first major Canadian city to appoint a woman as police chief, when it hired Christine Silverberg in 1995.
Lakhani, an Ismaili Muslim, says when she and her husband, Edmonton cardiologist Dr. Zaheer Lakhani, first moved to Alberta in 1977 so he could continue his medical education, they intended to stay only two years. They ended up staying for 43 years, “in a province we have grown to love deeply and are so grateful to call home. Every long and cold winter, we remind ourselves that we’re not here for the weather, but we are here for everything else,” she said to laughter.
Lakhani described Canada “as the only place in the world where I’m not required to be a person with only a single identity, or a single story . . . . While my story may sound unique, it is also the story of Alberta, a place where individual stories are woven into our collective tapestry,” she said.
“Nellie McClung, who championed women’s suffrage, and Dr. Thelma Chalifoux, the first Indigenous woman to be appointed to the Canadian Senate, are but two amongst so many amazing people who have contributed to making us the province and the country that we are today,” she said.
Lakhani and Madu have been added to this list of amazing people, who are breaking down barriers in the Prairies and setting an example for the rest of the country to follow.
Licia Corbella is a Postmedia columnist in Calgary.