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The Late Honourable Shahbaz Bhatti

Honourable senators, it is with deep regret that I stand here today to commemorate the inspirational life of my good friend Shahbaz Bhatti, who was assassinated in Pakistan today. It is reported that al Qaeda and the Taliban are taking credit for this deplorable act.

As Pakistan’s Minorities Minister, Mr. Bhatti was a tireless campaigner against the unjust blasphemy laws that suppress Pakistan as a nation. I had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Bhatti on numerous occasions, including as recently as a couple of weeks ago here in Ottawa.

He was dedicated to human rights not only in Pakistan but around the world, including in Canada. When he visited Canada last year, he condemned violence against Sikhs in Pakistan and pledged to “stop atrocities” against their community. Only last month, during a visit to Minister Jason Kenney’s office, he reiterated his dedication to continue fighting for the oppressed and the marginalized.

As Canadians, we can deeply appreciate his courage to stand up for what he knew was right. Mr. Bhatti was aware there were threats against his life from al Qaeda and the Taliban. Often, he would say, “When I am killed,” when we spoke to him, as though he knew it was a certainty. The world is poorer for having lost a courageous man who paid the ultimate price for his beliefs.

If there is one thing Canadians can learn from Shahbaz Bhatti, and one way we can pay tribute for all that he has done for human rights, it is that we should never be intimidated to stand up for what we believe in. Let us hope that others like Shahbaz Bhatti come forward in these dark times to continue his cause.