Ottawa

My name is Rasha Al-Katta and I am Canadian

My name is Rasha Al-Katta and I am Canadian
My Canada is a country of tolerance, kindness, and the stories of millions weaved into the very fabric of its history. This year we celebrate the 150th birthday of a country many of us are lucky to call home. A privilege dear to my heart.By: Rasha Al-Katta, Ottawa Shaper
(Originally published in the Hill Times)

The following is Rasha Al-Katta's speech she delivered last week at a Famous 5 Ottawa event for author Charlotte Gray's book The Promise of Canada. Ms. Al-Katta is a Famous 5 Ottawa Norton Rose Fulbright Mentorship Program winner, who was matched up with nation builder Ms. Gray.

OTTAWA-My name is Rasha Al-Katta and I am Canadian.

I love poutine, say "Zed" instead of "Zee," drench everything in maple syrup and utter the word "sorry" more than I'd care to admit.

Sorry.

My Canada is a country of tolerance, kindness, and the stories of millions weaved into the very fabric of its history.

This year we celebrate the 150th birthday of a country many of us are lucky to call home.

A privilege dear to my heart.

In 1997, my family fled to come here seeking refuge in the warm hearts of its people, despite the cold climates Canadians know so well.

On its 150th birthday, I can think of no better gift to present this wonderful country than that of Charlotte Gray's book The Promise of Canada.

We are fortunate to hear from her on her latest publication.

She is an award-winning historian and autobiographer and is one of Canada's most distinguished writers. Saying that her biography is jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring would be an understatement.

What a truly inspirational woman.

From completing her education at Oxford University and the London School of Economics, to being named a member of the Order of Canada, to having authored 10 acclaimed books of literary non-fiction.

It's of no surprise that she's a truly gifted writer and speaker.

I was mesmerized from the very first words inked into the pages of The Promise of Canada.

She captures the Canada that I have grown to know and love. The Canada that I call home. My Canada.

In her words: "There is no single image that captures our country, just as there is no single narrative in our multi-layered history. Every vision, every story is part of the promise of Canada."

Her stroke of genius is that she doesn't approach Canada's history as a political scientist, historian or journalist, but as a biographer.

One who believes that the ideas and actions of individuals can shape larger social changes, and those changes, in turn, mould national identity.

For example, Canada may now to be known as an advocate for gender equality and human rights.

But this wasn't always the case.

It took the voice of five incredible people to bravely challenge the status quo and insist that women be officially recognized as persons to the fullest legal sense of the word.

Emily Murphy.

Nellie McClung.

Henrietta Muir Edwards.

Louise McKinney.

Irene Parlby.

The Famous 5.

These five Albertan women were drawn together by the tides of history and a shared idealism.

Together, they formed an unstoppable force that changed the world for women in Canada.

Their story shaped our country and inspired the founding of organizations such as Famous 5 Ottawa; an organization where women's successes are celebrated, and where they are encouraged to become nation builders in their own right.

I would like to thank Famous 5 Ottawa and Norton Rose Fulbright for the opportunity to be here tonight. Thank you for giving me a voice and for inspiring me to never settle for the status quo.

Stories of incredible Canadians such as the Famous 5 are the stories of Canada that I grew up listening to.

The Canada that Charlotte Gray describes as one where though its 35 million citizens do not look, speak or pray alike, we have learned to share this land.

We have learned to live in neighbourly sympathy.

We have learned to live in harmony.

In the worlds of Shane Koyczan:

"we are cultures strung together

then woven into a tapestry

and the design is what makes us

more than the sum total of our history."

Rasha Al-Katta's fluency in English, French and Arabic, and her passion for international affairs, community development and languages has led her to positions with the Centre for Global and Community Engagement, Canada's Permanent Mission to the Office of the United Nations in Geneva and Global Affairs Canada. Her latest philanthropic endeavour was raising funds for WaterAid to help provide 200 people in Eastern Africa with clean water for life. As part of this effort, she successfully reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro to raise awareness and funds to combat the global water and sanitation crisis. She was awarded an MA from the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, and was named a Global Shaper by the World Economic Forum. The Famous 5 Ottawa Norton Rose Fulbright Mentorship Program is an opportunity for young women to be heard. Famous 5 Ottawa believes that young women should be at the front of the room speaking and not at the back of the room organizing. Through the generous support of international law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, we coach and mentor young women in their remarks and provide them with a bursary for their research and effort. The Famous 5 Ottawa Norton Rose Fulbright has provided speaking opportunities for a diverse and interesting group of young women for five years.