It’s unusual for one young person to cause the Ontario legislature to grind to a halt.
But the recent death of Yusra Javed, 21, a much-loved Queen’s Park press gallery intern, did just that on Tuesday.
Political staffers, journalists, MPPs, and legislative officials stopped what they were doing to remember Javed, a Ryerson University student who died of a rare heart ailment on Sept. 14.
Premier Doug Ford took time to attend the private unveiling of a photograph of Javed in the press gallery lounge, where he consoled her parents, Sabrina Suraiya and Mohammad Javed, and her brother Junaid.
Ford, a father of four adult daughters, was visibly moved as he met with the Javed family.
New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath, leader of the official opposition, also paid her respects in the gallery lounge.
In the legislative chamber, Speaker Ted Arnott delivered a statement from the Queen’s Park press gallery about how much the ambitious young journalist cared about covering politics.
“Her picture now hangs in the press gallery lounge, so that everyone will know that,” Arnott said before a minute of silence.
“She has taken her rightful place among the giants who inspired her, and so that she may inspire generations of journalists to come,” the speaker continued.
“Many of us have found ourselves in the past few weeks stopping all of a sudden when we realize Yusra’s gone. Her press gallery internship was always supposed to wrap up at the end of the summer,” he said.
“But to know that she is not out in the world, wowing the CBC at her internship there, working on freelance stories in her spare time, finishing her degree at Ryerson, charming absolutely everyone she meets and spending time with her wonderful family, is just so abjectly unfair.”
Before the daily question period, New Democrat MPP Doly Begum (Scarborough Southwest) delivered an address to the legislature on behalf of all members.
“I had the privilege of meeting Yusra here when she started her internship. She found me after question period and introduced herself. From one young woman to another: I felt a true sense of pride as she told me she was proud of me,” said Begum.
“We went back and forth about who was prouder, and then agreed that we were both pretty proud of each other for making it through, for being able to work in this incredible place. I mean, how many brown women do you see in the portraits of these walls?” she said.
Begum noted “Yusra wanted to see more women, especially women of colour, taking up these spaces, and she knew that hard work and dedication was the way forward.”
The MPP recalled how Javed had impressed gallery president Allison Jones of The Canadian Press and vice-president Rob Ferguson of the Star with “her talent and her enthusiasm” during interviews for the prestigious internship.
And she recounted how Javed had once confided to Steve Paikin, legendary host of TVO’s The Agenda: “I’m going to have your job one day.”
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That sparked warm laughter from both sides the legislature.
The press gallery is creating an endowment for an annual Ryerson journalism scholarship in Javed’s name. A GoFundMe page had raised $17,300 as of Tuesday and the gallery plans to top that up.