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US President Gives Shout-out to Trent Alumna in Parliament

June 30, 2016

Maryam Monsef '03 recognized by President Obama as an example of what's possible when refugees are embraced

Canadian MP, Maryam Monsef smiling at the camera, wearing a black dress

"Like the girl who fled Afghanistan by donkey and camel and jet plane. And who remembers being greeted in this country by helping hands and the sounds of robins singing. Today she serves in this chamber and in the cabinet because Canada is her home."

These were the words spoken by President of the United States Barack Obama as he addressed the House of Commons in Ottawa on June 29. His speech applauded the significant role Canada has played in setting the global precedent for welcoming refugees, and called out Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef ‘03, a recent Trent alumna, sharing her story as an example of this profound impact.

When Ms. Monsef graduated from Trent University in 2003, she left equipped with a strong sense of self and an eagerness for whatever her next chapter had in store. Little did she know just how fulfilling the coming years would be.

Ms. Monsef and her family moved to Canada from Afghanistan in 1996 and have continued to call Peterborough home. Her decision to attend Trent University came as a way to stay close to the roots she was establishing in Peterborough, and make Canada feel more like home. While completing her joint Biology and Psychology degree, Ms. Monsef became very involved in the many student groups at Trent, including the Ontario Public Research Interest Group (OPIRG), the Trent Muslim Students’ Association, and the World University Service of Canada’s Afghanistan Challenge. These extracurricular activities aided in the preparation for Ms. Monsef’s career in politics.

In 2015, Ms. Monsef became the Liberal candidate for the Peterborough and Kawartha area and was elected Member of Parliament, making her the first Canadian MP to have been born in Afghanistan.