Fallen Liberal MP Yasmin Ratansi

(Publisher/Editor Simerg, Barakah, and Simergphotos)

The Ismaili community tends to shy away from controversies. However, lately, we have seen the engagement of Ismaili activists and youth with Black Lives Matter and the US elections. In response, we have given fora to the Ismaili youth to talk about racial injustice and discuss issues raised by challenged members, such as the deaf within the Jamat (community).

Over the past day, I received several links carrying damaging reports about Ms. Yasmin Ratansi, an iconic member of the Liberal Party of Canada for decades and the Federal MP for the Don Valley East riding since 2014. She has resigned from the Liberal caucus over allegations that she employed her sister at her constituency office. She has decided to represent herself in her riding as an Independent. The opposition party, however, is calling for her immediate resignation. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a statement made to the journalists on Tuesday, November 10, said that he was deeply disappointed by the news that he had learned from Ms. Ratansi about how she handled the office. He added that it was unacceptable and expects there will be a thorough follow up by [House of Commons] administration on the matter.

Yasmin Ratansi is very well known among her constituents and within the Ismaili Muslim community, where she has been an active member since her childhood years in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. She has also served in Jamati institutions in numerous capacities.

We feel proud when Ismailis are elected or appointed to high positions at the provincial or federal level. Over the years, Simerg has proudly shown Yasmin’s pictures and presented pertinent articles that were brought to our attention.

Now the long admired Yasmin has let her own community down, with this latest revelation. While she has apologized for her actions, she owes an apology particularly to the Ismaili community for her mistake.

We have numerous other Ismailis working at Federal level as MPs and in the Senate. Over the years, I have been disappointed with all of them for not even having the courtesy to respond to important matters that I had brought to their attention.

The friend who first sent me a link through Whatsapp on Yasmin Ratansi was deeply hurt by what he had read on CBC. He was particularly concerned that repeated guidance on ethics by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, had been ignored.

During his 2017-2018 Diamond Jubilee visits to Ismailis around the world, Mawlana Hazar Imam urged them to think about the foundations of their work, noting that this had its basis on the faith and its ethics. That ethic, he said, entailed integrity, humility and honesty, and the rigor of behaving in a manner that would be beneficial to the current and future generations of the Jamat as well as to the country and society at large.

This brings me to the important point that Ismailis who are serving or wish to serve within the Jamati institutional structure, or public office should be cognizant of this advice from Mawlana Hazar Imam.

Date posted: November 11, 2020.


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Exclusive Photos by Jean-Marc Carisse: “Victorious Trudeau”, His Highness the Aga Khan and Liberal MP Yasmin Ratansi


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“Victorious Trudeau”
Justin Trudeau with wife Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau just as results from polling stations across the country confirmed a Liberal majority government. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.

By Abdulmalik Merchant

“Victorious Trudeau” is the caption of this large, beautiful and poignantly touching photograph on the front window of Jean-Marc Carisse’s Studio Café located on Elgin Street in Ottawa. It’s a remarkable record of history in the making, as it was taken by Mr. Carisse in Montreal just as Mr. Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party won the 2015 Federal Elections in Canada held on Monday, October 19th.

Countless other photos adorn the walls of the studio café Jean-Marc and his wife have lovingly and meticulously built on Elgin Street. Mr. Carisse, an award winning photographer (see profile below), has seen action around the world for more than forty years. From activists to artists, and singers to prominent world leaders, past and present, Carisse has the iconic figures as well as the common man well represented in his European inspired space that I call The Jean-Marc Carisse Museum of Photography.


Carisse Studio Cafe Photography Gallery on Elgin Street in Ottawa.

Ask Jean-Marc Carisse – the humble, lively and ever-joyous and smiling man – about the background and context of the photos, and he will oblige with details so rich, interesting and, sometimes, amusing that you will want to go back and look at the photos on the walls again and again.

Jean-Marc’s enormous collection include hundreds of photos of the 49th Ismaili Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, in group settings. One that Carisse is particularly attached to, in which His Highness appears alongside former USA President Jimmy Carter and Cuban leader Fidel Castro, was taken at the funeral of Justin’s father, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. In this photo Justin, the loving son, and now Canada’s Prime Minister designate – he officially becomes the Prime Minister on November 4 – is seen resting his head on his late father’s casket. This is a truly remarkable and poignant photo taken in sadder circumstances.

Pierre Trudeau FuneralThe photograph shows former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s family, friends, colleagues, and official guests in attendance to observe his passing. His son, Justin, rests his head on the casket of his father. Margaret Trudeau is in the front pew with son, Alexandre. In attendance next to Cuban President Fidel Castro are former Governor-General Romeo Leblanc, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Other notables present at the ceremony not shown in this photograph include past Canadian Prime Ministers John Turner, Joseph Clark, Brian Mulroney, and Jean Chrétien. Photo: Copyright Jean-Marc Carisse.

When I asked Mr. Carisse to create a special dropbox for me of the photos of His Highness, he gladly obliged for the photos that were electronically available which he had shot over the past 12 years or so. These photos were from the Ismaili Imam’s visits or meetings with Ministers who during the 2002-06 time frame headed the Department of External Affairs. The Liberals were in power at that time, and Ms. Yasmin Ratansi, an Ismaili Muslim, was the Liberal MP representing the Don Mills East constituency. She lost her seat in the 2011 Federal Elections to the Conservative member by less than 1,000 votes in what turned out to be a watershed election for the Liberals, who could only keep 34 seats out of 308. But last week in a major turn around, Ms Ratansi won the same riding by almost 10,000 votes, with Liberals increasing their count by a substantial margin to 184!

I wondered whether I might find Yasmin somewhere in the dropbox of thumbnails that Jean-Marc had set up for me. Indeed! I found her, and there were quite a few. I met with Jean-Marc Carisse late yesterday, Monday, October 26, to view the actual enlarged versions, out of which we selected a couple with two Ministers. Also Carisse shared a portrait of His Highness the Aga Khan (see below)

This is our little tribute to Ms. Ratansi who has worked hard for Canadians. Undaunted, this remarkable lady was not prepared to go into oblivion just because she and her party were defeated four years ago. She has come out strong, and we wish her well in the years to come in her service to the people of this great country.

re, Bill Graham & Yasmin RatansiHis Highness the Aga Khan and Yasmin Ratansi (right) in a happy exchange with Canadian External Affairs Minister Bill Graham (2002-2004), looking on. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.

Marc Carisse 2005 0607 203His Highness the Aga Khan, MP Yasmin Ratansi and External Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew (July 2004 – February 2006). Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.

With regard to Mr. Justin Trudeau, who will officially become the Prime Minister on November 4, I might note that the relationship of the Ismaili Imamat with his family goes back more than 40 years, when the Liberal Government under Justin’s father, Mr. Pierre Trudeau, accepted thousands of Asian refugees including  Ismailis from Uganda.

Judging by the respect and warmth that Mr. Justin Trudeau has shown towards the Ismaili Imam and the Ismaili community, we expect that the fraternal bonds between the Ismaili Imamat and Canada will continue to remain strong, as they have been under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other Prime Ministers  before him.

Aga Khan by Jean-Marc CarisseHis Highness the Aga Khan. Photo by Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright

We wish Mr. Justin Trudeau and his  Liberal Government the very best to serve this country well, and to lead the country to loftier heights. The Ismaili community, as ever, will continue to excel in its commitment to this magnificent country in all spheres of human endeavour, under the guidance of their beloved Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, who asked his Ismaili followers in 1978 to make Canada their permanent homes.

We conclude by mentioning that the Diamond Jubilee (60th Imamat Day Celebrations) of His Highness the Aga Khan will be celebrated in July 2017, at the same time that Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary. We look forward to celebrating these two great milestones in Canadian and Ismaili history under the leadership of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Date posted: Tuesday, October 27, 2015.
Last updated: October 28, 2015.

Please also visit Simerg’s photoblog at http://www.simergphotos.com for an enhanced version of this piece containing additional photos of His Highness the Aga Khan. _______________

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Jean-Marc CarisseAward winning photographer, Jena Marc Carisse has photographed the political, cultural and social scenes in Ottawa and around the world for over 40 years.  He was official photographer for the Prime Minister’s Office for many years serving Prime Ministers Trudeau, Turner and Chrétien, as well as serving Official Opposition Leaders Bill Graham, Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff. He’s also photographed consecutive Prime Ministers from Diefenbaker to Harper, US Presidents from Ford to Obama and hundreds of world leaders. Many of his photographs have appeared on the covers and pages of history and political books (including his own coffee table book “Privileged Access w/ Trudeau, Turner & Chrétien” by Warwick Publ. 2000),  magazines including Time, Paris Match and Maclean’s, as well as TV documentaries and biographies.