OTTAWA: Nobel Peace laureate Malala Yousafzai became only the sixth person to receive honorary Canadian citizenship Wednesday, as she called on the country to be bold in advocating for girls education. Wearing a bright orange scarf to cover her head in accordance with Muslim tradition, the Pakistani activist was welcomed to the seat of Canada’s democracy by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. At age 19, Yousafzai is the youngest person to speak to Canadian members of parliament and senators in a joint session. She is also the youngest to receive honorary Canadian citizenship – a privilege previously granted to five others including Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and Myanmar s Aung San Suu Kyi. She urged Canada to use its turn as president of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations in 2018 to press for the education of girls and refugees. She leapt to global fame after a Taliban gunman shot her in the head on a school bus in October 2012 for defending her right to attend school. Since a successful operation following the attack, she has lived in the British city of Birmingham, where she continues to advocate for women s rights. During a brief ceremony, Yousafzai was given the Canadian flag from atop the Peace Tower at the entrance of parliament, and a copy of her 2013 book “I Am Malala” was added to the parliamentary library.
Yousafzai had been invited to Canada by the previous Conservative government in 2014 – when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize – to receive Canadian citizenship in Toronto. But the ceremony was postponed due to the shooting of a ceremonial guard and an attack on parliament the same day. The honour is mostly symbolic, coming with no obligations or benefits. Earlier Wednesday, Yousafzai joined the prime minister’s wife Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau for a talk with students at a local high school. “The message I am spreading around the world to our leaders, to our politicians, (is) that they must prioritise education for each and every child around the world,” she said.