Introducing the CMLA Board Nominees

March 7, 2017
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The CMLA’s Annual General Meeting is almost here.  It will be held on Thursday March 9 at Torys LLP in Toronto, Ontario.  The most important item of business at the AGM will be nominations for the CMLA’s Board of Directors.

The Board is the governing body of the CMLA and oversees all of the work undertaken by the CMLA and its committees, including the Legal Advocacy Committee and regional chapters.  It is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the organization, including organizing events and maintaining the CMLA’s digital media presence.  It also coordinates the CMLA’s representation on external bodies such as the Roundtable of Diversity Associations and develops and maintains strategic relationships with other community organizations within the Canadian Muslim community and beyond.  Finally, the Board is responsible for shaping the long-term strategic positioning of the organization.

The following are the nominees for the CMLA’s Board of Directors together with the statements they prepared supporting their nominations:

Zoya Alam.  It is with great enthusiasm that I submit this nomination for a position on the CMLA Board of Directors. As a staff lawyer practicing in employment law and housing law at a legal clinic in Toronto, I work to advocate for the rights of low-income workers and the right to housing through litigation and public legal education. As a passionate advocate for social justice issues, I have been able to lead and volunteer with a number of community initiatives for the betterment of civil society. I have had the opportunity to contribute to the organizing of The Canadian Muslim Vote’s Eid Dinner and volunteer with the MAX Gala and NCCM’s C-51 lobby. Most recently, I helped lead the initiative to reverse the Peel District’s School Board’s decision to pre-approve and pre-write students’ Friday prayer sermons. As a Team Lead for the Fasting 5K Toronto Chapter, I organized a 5K for fasting individuals and expanded the non-profit’s operations to Canada for the first time. As a team, we were able to raise funds for and awareness of youth mental health for local and international charities, raising over $130,000 across 8 cities. Seeing some of the great work CMLA has done in fostering relationships with junior legal professionals and other legal organizations, as well as in organizing important events such as hosting the Attorney General of Ontario, I have seen the critical role the CMLA plays in the legal profession. It is my hope that I can bring my grassroots experience and perspective to contribute to the growth of the CMLA and the Board’s strategic vision for the long-terms goals of the organization. Moreover, I hope to use my experience working with other community organizations to further build the CMLA’s relationship with organizations within the Canadian Muslim Community. My vision for the CMLA is to have an even stronger and clearly defined presence in the legal community and beyond, as well as to be able to highlight and enhance the scope of the organization’s initiatives in the Muslim legal community.

Fatema Dada.   My name is Fatema Dada, I have been a Crown Attorney for the last 8 years practicing civil litigation for the government of Ontario. Along with my day job, I sit on the Legal Advocacy Committee of CMLA, the Board of Directors of CAMWL (the Canadian Association of Muslim Women in Law) and the Board of Directors of SMILE Canada (a charity dedicated to helping visible minority children with disabilities). As an aside, SMILE’s gala is on April 23rd—buy your tickets today!  When I first became a lawyer, CMLA provided a safe space for mentorship and guidance while actively supporting issues arising in the community. I hope to continue that tradition and help strengthen our platform in order to support our members in the community. That includes regularly scheduled lunches/ dinners for our lawyers, improved liaising between CMLA and MLSA, and creating/and or improving a referral system for legal assistance.

Pantea Jafari.

Mustafa Jilani.  I have been a board member of the CMLA for the past 2 years. I joined the organization out of a desire to see the CMLA more involved in not only our membership but with Muslim legal issues as a whole. Every generation of CMLA leaders has taken the organization further, as did we, but the work is not yet done. Which is why I wish to return. I believe in a CMLA vision of an organization that is as powerful as the ACLU yet as engaged with its members as a grass-roots initiative. We have historically had a restrained conservative approach to getting involved, perhaps due to lack of resources or initiative, but in this day and age with the current political climate, we cannot afford to be sitting on the sidelines.  I am a lawyer and community activist working with other like minded lawyers (such as Faisal Kutty, Irfan Syed, Mohamed El Rashidy to name a few movers and shakers) at KSM Law. I am in my 5th year of practice and am dual-licensed in both Ontario and Illinois (having worked in Chicago for a bit). My experiences with organizations such as CAIR and ACLU in America and later on the NCCM in Canada have allowed me to foresee the potential for the CMLA. With your help, I don’t see why we can’t reach that potential. Which means though the individuals highlighted on this list are running for the board, you as a member need to get involved. Email the CMLA to ask how.

Khalid Karim.  What does being elected a Board member on the CMLA mean to me? Being a part of the Board of the CMLA would mean the opportunity to give back to the Muslim community that has been my constant support system. I have always been motivated by a passion for helping others achieve their goals. Prior to my call in 2016, I served as president of the SLS at Windsor Law, where I represented the diverse interests of over 700 law students. During my tenure, I was able to help bridge the gap between Muslim and Jewish students on the divisive issue of BDS by fostering safe spaces for discussion and encouraging both sides to work together to understand their respective differences. I would bring this attitude of leadership and teamwork to the CMLA Board. Prior to and during law school, I worked at a renewable energy company that encouraged innovative thinking. I would help foster a culture of innovation and use technology to improve the efficiency of internal Board operations. During my articles, I obtained a non-profit board leadership certificate from Schulich. The certificate taught me the nuts and bolts of serving as a Board member on a non-profit Board and equipped me to work effectively with the other CMLA Board members. My goal is to build on the previous work of the Board while bringing a fresh perspective. In my view, the CMLA is uniquely situated to be an agent for bringing justice to the greater Muslim community during these particularly tumultuous times. As lawyers, we are blessed with access to the levers of justice and the ability to use these levers to foster and promote equality within the community through organized advocacy. For example, I would suggest capitalizing on partnerships with other organizations, as well as leveraging our unique position in the media to help advance the cause of Canadian Muslims and increase the CMLA’s profile. Together, let’s promote a more abiding commitment to justice and a deeper respect for human dignity for all Muslim Canadians. On March 9th, please lend me your support and your vote.

Faisal Mirza.  I have been an active member of the CMLA since 2001. Most recently, I was involved as Chair of the legal advocacy committee from 2013 to 2015 where I worked with a team of great people to build on prior successes and accomplish new goals. In particular, I used my legal expertise to assist the CMLA with various advocacy projects including obtaining leave for the first time to make both written and oral submissions before the SCC in partnership with NCCM. I also helped to expand the brand by co-writing formal submissions on important issues and connecting our team with other reputable organizations. Further, I consistently participated in grassroots initiatives such as educating the community at local gatherings and mentoring lawyers that reached out to me. Moving ahead, I would like to lead the CMLA to increase its membership and enhance its financial resources so that it can increase its influence in the legal community. I am confident that I can assist the CMLA to accomplish these goals.

Mueed Peerbhoy.  I was called to the bar of Ontario in 2008. I worked for 3 years with a small firm in Mississauga where I did mainly corporate/commercial law, but also worked on civil litigation, wills and estates, and real estate matters, from time to time. I’ve been with a bank for over 5 years, focusing mainly on regulatory support with respect to tax and banking law. I was honoured to be appointed to the Legal Advocacy Committee (LAC) of the CMLA when it was created in 2013 and have been involved with the CMLA in a formal capacity since then. The CMLA has built an excellent reputation over its history as an organization committed to principled human rights and civil liberties advocacy. The CMLA is ‘known’ in Ottawa. I would like to participate in strengthening and building upon the work that the CMLA has done so that we become without doubt the premier Muslim organization when it comes to principled advocacy. I would like to work with the Board on more formally delineating the parameters of what the CMLA is and, equally important, is not; developing capacity to undertake multiple actions and projects; and empowering its volunteers to deliver. While my focus has been and will remain on CMLA’s advocacy work, I am also interested in helping the Board deliver on another one of its key areas of engagement, which is member and public education. There is a real need to educate the public on their rights when it comes to dealing with government agents such as the police and CSIS. I would like to facilitate leading members of the bar in delivering such seminars. I would like to thank the membership for considering me for this position.

Omar Raza.  Omar is an advocate for numerous community-based initiatives and actively supports empowerment opportunities for equity-seeking groups. He believes that during these challenging times, the CMLA plays a critical role to support the advancement of the Canadian Muslim perspective in public policy, the profession and in civil society. He currently works at KPMG LLP and previously served as Chief of Staff to Ontario’s Minister of Children and Youth Services and the Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues. In his role, Omar worked on the internationally recognized campaign, “It’s Never OK: Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan” and the province’s strategy on enhancing mental health services for children and youth. Omar also served on the University of Windsor’s Board of Governors and was a member of the Rotary Club of Windsor-St. Clair. He is a lawyer and holds an LL.B. from the University of Windsor, and an LL.M. from Osgoode Hall Law School.

Junaid Subhan.  I’ve had the honour of serving on the CMLA’s Board for the last six years.  During this time my key contributions were: establishing the Legal Advocacy Committee and CMLA Quebec, securing a seat on the Roundtable of Diversity Associations, revamping the organization’s communications and financial infrastructure and recruiting to the CMLA some our community’s most exceptionally talented lawyers.  Six years is a long time but I have some unfinished business and unanswered questions.  What can we do to better support law students and junior lawyers?  How can we facilitate the wellness of our busy mid-career professionals?  How do we engage our senior lawyers in a manner that is more meaningful to them?  These questions matter because I believe that, in these challenging times, Canadian Muslim lawyers can be a force for good.  The CMLA must be a catalyst in making this aspiration a reality.  We need all of our law students and all of our junior lawyers maximizing their skills and talents in fulfilling career trajectories.  We need our mid-career members excelling in their respective fields.  We need the guidance and experience of all of our senior members on deck.  As we grow our membership and create channels to facilitate high engagement, the CMLA shifts from a static organization to a dynamic movement.  We can then ask more interesting questions.  How can we use our unique skills and talents to better support allied organizations?  How can our common professional ideals connect us to other legal organizations whose members share our challenges and aspirations?  What is the best way for the CMLA’s legal advocacy program to strategically complement the efforts of other organizations engaged in similar work?  How can our educational programming be calibrated to move the needle for Canadians struggling with justice issues?  By way of background, I practice corporate and securities law at the Toronto office of Stikeman Elliott LLP.  Ayant vécu à Montréal pour la plupart de mon vie, je suis bilingue et j’apprécie le contexte unique de nos membres au Québec.

Sameer Zuberi.  After careful consideration, I’m putting forward my candidacy to join the CMLA national board. I’ll simply outline my experience, and let members decide on my candidacy. Let me add – I fully understand the obligations required of a national board member, and am, God willing, prepared to assume them, giving them their full due. — I am one of the founding members of CMLA’s Quebec Section, served as Vice-Chair of the section’s 2014 board, and as a board member in 2015. I hold a BA in Mathematics from Concordia and an LL.B. from the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). While at UQAM, I was the first recipient of the $3000 Justice Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré scholarship, given for my years of utilizing the law to promote social justice. Today, I work as the Diversity and Engagement Officer at McGill’s Faculty of Medicine, where I’m tasked with diversifying the student body and faculty. Since 2002, I have been involved in advocacy work for the Canadian Muslim community, and at times, other groups, which started when I was elected vice-president of Concordia’s undergraduate student union. My Concordia experience lead me on a trajectory of public advocacy, which I continue till now. Upon completion of my degree, I taught English in Kuwait for a year. I then returned to Ottawa, where, between 2006 and 2008, I worked as the Media Relations and Human Rights Coordinator at the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN), today known as NCCM. While with the group, in addition to being the organization’s lead on all things media, I oversaw about 150 case files, large and small. These included the Arar Inquiry, the Iacobucci Inquiry (which focused on Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin), security certificates, the “No-Fly List,” the Bouchard-Taylor Commission, and others. My work with CAIR-CAN required me to partner with several organizations including Amnesty International, and eminent Canadians like Warren Allmand. Later, while in law school, I worked with Me Johanne Doyon, as a legal researcher. I have served on the boards of the Montreal-based Canadian Muslim Forum and the City of Montreal’s Intercultural Council.