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'It is exciting': Ausma Malik to become first hijab-wearing Muslim woman to sit on Toronto city council

There will be nine new faces on Toronto’s city council this year, including the first hijab-wearing Muslim councillor elected to office, Ausma Malik.

“If you look at the results across the city, it is exciting. We are changing not just the face of what progressive political leadership can look like in Toronto, but also its substance,” Malik told CP24 on Tuesday.

Malik, 38, cruised to victory in Monday night’s election and won the councillor position in downtown Ward 10-Spadina-Fort York with 36.6 per cent of the votes, besting her nearest challenger by about 15 points.

The highly-dense ward consists of the southern central part of Toronto's downtown core stretching roughly from Dufferin Street in the west to the Don Valley Parkway in the east. The ward has a growing population of roughly 115,510.

Malik ran against 11 other challengers, including April Engelberg who came in second with 21.3 per cent of last night’s votes. Engelberg also finished second to former Ward 10 councillor Joe Cressy in the 2018 municipal election.

Cressy, who was first elected to council in 2014, resigned from his seat back in April to pursue his "dream job" at George Brown College. His resignation came after he announced in Oct. 2021 that he would not seek re-election.

For those who are not quite sure how to pronounce the name of the new Ward 10 councillor,, Malik said she has a fun analogy to explain it.

“When you're a kid and you come home from school with your friends and your mom says, ‘Who's there?’ and you say, ‘Us- Ma.’ That's the best way to pronounce my name, Us-ma, and last name is Muh-lick,” she said enthusiastically.

This is not the first time Malik made history in the political realm. From 2014 to 2018, she served as a Toronto District School Board Trustee for Ward 10-Trinity-Spadina, becoming the first hijab-wearing Muslim woman to be elected to public office in Canada.

She said she is proud to help pave the way for more representation and inclusion in municipal politics.

“What I'm so excited about is the next generation and the new generation of leaders, of activists in our community that will see a role for themselves in political leadership in our city that is about serving all of us and making our city more equal, more livable, more affordable, and most of all, being a climate leader,” Malik said.

According to Malik’s website, her parents immigrated to Canada from Pakistan over five decades ago and Malik and her siblings were raised in Toronto.

The human rights and social justice activist graduated from the University of Toronto and has a background in policy, communications and community organizing.

Before embarking on her campaign for councillor, Malik worked as the Director of Advocacy and Organizing for the Atkinson Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes social and economic justice in Ontario. Malik took an unpaid leave of absence back in July to focus on her campaign.

Malik said one of her top priorities as councillor will be to tackle housing affordability, by working to get more rental and non-profit housing built and stronger rent control.

Other key items laid out in her platform include advocating for more affordable and accessible, high-quality transit, more public park space and safer neighbourhoods and streets.

“It is absolutely unacceptable that people and families are pushed out of our city because of the soaring costs of housing and rent. And we need to bring the urgency and the leadership to the city council table to address that,” Malik said. Top Stories

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