Mr. Speaker, I have been doing a lot of soul-searching over the past three days and would like to share my thoughts.
I came to Canada as a baby, fleeing Idi Amin's Uganda in the arms of my parents. It was their dream to live in a great and free democracy. Canada is their promised land.
Four years ago, I became the first Muslim elected to Canada's parliament and one of the first refugees. I am very proud of this honour, not just to be chosen by the people of Edmonton—Strathcona and not just to serve in this great institution, but because I knew that my being elected as an MP was the last milestone in my family's road from tyranny to freedom, the final destination in my people's journey from being refugees who belong nowhere to being full citizens of Canada, the greatest country in the world.
That is why the events of the last few days have been so hurtful.
On Saturday, my partner and I opened up a new business, a cafe that employs a dozen young people in the heart of Edmonton. However my assistant had booked me on a radio show at the same time. He tried to call me at the cafe to let me know when I was to appear on the show but he could not reach me. With only a few minutes left until air time, he panicked and did the radio interview himself pretending to be me without my knowledge or consent.
It was a bad decision, an error in judgment, made in the stress of the moment. It has never happened before and it will never happen again. It was wrong.
Right after the show, my assistant drove to the cafe and told me what he had done. Shortly after that, the radio station phoned me and asked me about the interview. At first I covered for my assistant, a man who has competently and loyally worked for me and our constituency from the beginning. I told the producer that it was actually me on the radio. I lied.
It was wrong for my assistant to appear on the radio claiming to be me and it was wrong for me to cover that up.
My assistant and I have since telephoned the show to apologize and my assistant has resigned. He is sorry for pretending to be me. I am sorry for trying to gloss over his error.
I have already apologized to Peter Warren, the host of the show, and to all of his listeners across Canada. Today, Mr. Speaker, I would like to offer to you, as the Speaker of this legislature and my friend, my apologies for not living up to the standards of the House.
To my fellow MPs, I offer my regrets for not living up to their standards of integrity. I apologize for embarrassing them. I pledge my loyalty again to my leader and the whip, who have dealt with me firmly, yet compassionately.
To the people of Edmonton—Strathcona, I offer my sincere apologies for my momentary lapse in judgment. It has been a unique honour to work for my constituents in parliament and to serve them in the riding. I hope they will continue to look at me and judge me by the sum of my words and deeds and not by this one error.
More than anyone, I want to address my parents, Nizar and Razia Jaffer, who have been hurt the most by my mistake. For 30 years they have put their own interests and wishes aside to give everything they had to my brother and me. I would not have been able to get here to Canada without them. I would not have been able to get to parliament without them. All of my achievements have been because of their love and devotion. I am sorry I let them down. More than anything, that has hurt these last few days.
Mr. Speaker, I thank you for this opportunity to clear the air. Let me close by pledging to continue doing in years ahead what I have done for the past four years, to serve the people of Edmonton—Strathcona as best I can and, just as important, to live up to my parents' example as best I can.