Faisal Hassan MPP, York South–Weston

Government of Ontario

Historic NDP bill recognizing Somali Heritage Week in Ontario passes

QUEEN’S PARK – NDP MPP Faisal Hassan (York South-Weston), who is the first Canadian of Somali heritage to be elected to provincial parliament in Ontario, saw his bill to recognize the week of June 25 each year as Somali Heritage Week in Ontario pass unanimously today. The province of Ontario is the first jurisdiction in North America to officially recognize Somali Heritage Week.

“Across the world, particularly in regions throughout the Horn of Africa, the week of June 25 marks a time of Somali independence, freedom, and liberty,” said Hassan. “Now that this week is officially declared Somali Heritage Week, not only will the vibrant history of the Somali community be recognized here in Ontario, but the diverse achievements of Somali Ontarians will be celebrated and appreciated throughout the province.”

Hassan’s bill has received support from a number of Somali organizations, including the Somali Centre for Family Services, the Somali Canadian Association of Etobicoke, the Somali Women’s and Children’s Support Network, and Midaynta Community Services, all of which advocate to preserve and share Somalia's rich culture in Ontario’s increasingly diverse and multicultural climate.

Quotes

Sarah Jama, Community Activist and Co-Founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario:
“Somalis in Canada have struggled with the double edge sword of anti-Black racism and xenophobia in this country, while also carrying the inter-generational scars of civil war and imperialist fueled displacement from our homeland. Through all this, we've found ways to continue to give back to this country, contribute to the economy, and impact culture in ways that will forever be defined through our dialect and poetry. Somali Heritage Month is a testament to this and more.”

Hawa Mire, Critical writer:
“The richness of Somali cultural heritage, storytelling, food and other traditions have found their way into all aspects of Toronto, especially in my riding of York South-Weston. The addition of Somali Heritage Week will only serve to celebrate the often forgotten achievements and successes of this vibrant community, embedding us deep into the fabric of Ontario. A bill like this is momentous - and offers a moment we can all be proud to look back on as a key moment in history. I am proud to be Somali, today and all days, and to celebrate Somali Heritage Week.”

Abdi Yusuf, Somali Workers Network:
“Somali Heritage Week in Ontario means a lot to me and the families who are originally from Somalia. It is a celebration of the contributions that Somali Canadians make to the province. It gives us a sense of belonging and recognition, and it boosts the morale of future generations.”

Shukri Abdullahi, Journalist and Community Leader:
“Ontario’s opposition party, the NDP, have successfully recognized and tabled a bill that celebrates Somali Heritage Week. It ends on July 1, Canada Day, which is also Somali’s Independence Day. We invite you to come and see what makes up our rich culture, as it is important to find and incorporate cultural identity into our lives. As Ontarians, and with diversity as our strength, implementing productive policies that support one’s heritage and identity will create a more inclusive and prosperous Ontario”

Abdullahi Barre, Community Organizer:
“The Somali Heritage Week Private Member’s Bill is very important for our community. Now that the bill has passed, we can show Canadians our way of living from generation to generation, including our customs, practices, places, arts as well as our overall values.”

Farah Issa, Lawyer:
“This bill aides in the recognition of the significant contributions that the Somali Community has made in all spheres of Canadian society. The Somali community has a strong presence in Ontario, particularly in the GTA and Ottawa region. As a large ethnic minority group, the Ontario government needed to recognize the culture and the role that this entrepreneurial community plays in our society. I believe that this bill has helped in this regard.”

Maryama Ahmed, Student leader:
“As a Somali, I benefit from celebrating Somali Heritage Week because it instills a sense of pride in myself, and it fosters more connection with the Somali community. As an Ontarian, Somali Heritage Week adds more values, traditions, and aspirations to Ontario’s diverse provincial identity.”

Dr. Ahmed Ilmi, Academic:
“Somali Heritage Week in Ontario firmly recognizes the important contributions of Canadians of Somali descent in Canadian society, and celebrates a unique heritage with roots in Somali but that is distinctly Canadian. Somali Heritage Week not only tells a story of arrival, but it also tells a larger story about community hopes and dreams.”