Former CSIS officer Huda Mukbil hopes for election win to defend discriminated, marginalized Canadians

·4 min read
Huda Mukbil is an NDP candidate for Ottawa South.

When life gave Huda Mukbil systemic racism, she decided to make political change.

After nearly two decades in the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the former senior intelligence officer and NDP candidate for Ottawa South crossed the public sector floor to run in the Sept. 20 federal election after nearly two decades in the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).

Lack of diversity at the management level and instances of alleged discrimination pushed Mukbil out of the national security field.

She then consulted for the Black civil servants class action lawsuit and realized the issue reaches far and wide across the federal public sector.

Working on the case, Mukbil and other Black lawyers found that Canada’s employment equity laws have not been updated in the last 25 years.

“There were systemic issues that were depriving Black Canadians from opportunities in decision-making overall,“ Mukbil said. “We have in this country 3.4 per cent Black Canadians, and they are not represented at all in any sort of capacity in leadership positions in the entire federal government.”

The experience of working on the class action lawsuit made Mukbil appreciate that she needs to be where laws are made, policies are debated, and where the power really lies in terms of making a broader impact.

She knows the change won’t be easy, however.

Women in politics endure 'unnecessary pain', Mukbil says

Mukbil said women in politics always face pushback, citing the likes of Catherine McKenna, a former Liberal MP for Ottawa Centre, who quit politics after facing a lot of harassment.

Harassment and discrimination are things a lot of women and racialized political candidates experience, Mukbil said.

“It’s unnecessary pain that we go through, but as long as you’re focused on the goal, you have to keep going,” she said. “We just can’t let it stop us from doing good.”

Systemic racism at heart of Mukbil's campaign

On Mukbil’s agenda, though, if elected, is addressing the systemic racism that Muslims and other marginalized groups face in Canada.

Muslim charitable organizations have had their status revoked after being audited by the Canadian Revenue Agency in recent years. Mukbil said 70 per cent of the charities that were audited were Muslim organizations.

“I think that that’s problematic,” she said. “It’s indicative of systemic profiling and racism toward the community.”

Mukbil said these biases have existed within these governmental institutions “since their inception.”

The former intelligence officer experienced firsthand the effects of the lack of diversity and systemic racism. Mukbil left CSIS in 2017 and helped launch a class-action lawsuit along with five intelligence officers and analysts who claimed they were discriminated against for being Black, Muslim or gay.

Mukbil told CBC News in June that she was asked to cut ties with Muslim organizations and felt that she was treated like a second-class citizen.

She also questioned the lack of action from CSIS towards stopping Alexandre Bissonnette, who killed six men at a mosque in Quebec City in 2017.

Mukbil told CBC News that CSIS should have predicted his next steps considering his online activity.

She said one of the first things she would work on if elected as MP would be to update these equity laws so that Black and racialized public servants are hired and ensure that they’re promoted and retained.

Mukbil’s said she wants to bring changes to the criminal justice system. She said she heard from community members in Ottawa South that there’s an over-criminalization of racialized groups.

Racialized youth who may have run into problems at school or with the law don’t have enough support from non-profit organizations that help them get back on track, according to Mukbil.

Barack Obama, family inspire her to keep going

When she’s not thinking about systemic racism and criminal justice reform, Mukbil is a hardcore soccer mom.

Her two kids play competitive soccer in the city, so she’s often busy coordinating with her husband who’s taking them to practice.

Mukbil said her husband has been a big supporter of her campaign and helps quite a bit.

“I couldn’t have done this without him,” she said. “As a woman, as a racialized woman, you see society telling you ‘you can’t do this,’ or ‘you don’t belong in a certain institution,’ or those kinds of things. Yet, I have him cheering me on.”

Aside from the support of her husband and community, Mukbil looks to former U.S. president Barack Obama for inspiration in her first political campaign.

She said with all of the hardships Obama faced in his youth and political career, he and his wife Michelle Obama showed resilience and tried to bring people together.

“Now that I am looking forward in my political life, that’s the kind of role model that I look to, that I want to be a force that unites people together.”