Attorney General of Ontario
Master of Arts, International Affairs (’08)
Yasir Naqvi’s first lesson in politics came when he was 10-years-old, the son of politically active lawyers in Karachi, Pakistan. His father was one of the leaders in the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy, a coalition of Pakistani political parties that opposed the military regime and martial law. Mr. Naqvi clearly remembers the day his father left the house to lead a non-violent march in Karachi.
“I vividly remember that we hugged and kissed each other, knowing full well that he would be arrested that day,” recalls Mr. Naqvi. “Within a short period of the march starting, he was handcuffed, thrown in the back of a van and jailed for nine months.”
Mr. Naqvi says those early experiences became part of his DNA, strongly shaping his own choices in life.
“The value of democratic institutions, the meaning of the rule of law, the right to vote: these principles are not just ideas on paper, but at the core of who I am. They were entrenched in my upbringing.”
Today, Mr. Naqvi is Attorney General and Government House Leader for the Province of Ontario—the province’s chief lawyer and advisor to the cabinet on legislative matters. As Attorney General, he introduces policies relating to access to justice and the justice system.
As the son of a political activist who had been jailed in his native country, the irony of his current role is not lost on Mr. Naqvi.
“If it had been possible, my father would have been a parliamentarian in Pakistan,” he says. “Instead, our family moved to Canada and he and my mother sacrificed so that their children would be successful. Their plan is coming to fruition through their children.”
In fact, that plan was enacted almost from their first day in Canada.
“My first card was for the public library and my second was for the Liberal Party. I still carry the party membership card in my wallet,” says Mr. Naqvi, who was soon volunteering for the 1990 provincial election.
After earning Bachelor’s degrees in life sciences and political science, Mr. Naqvi obtained his law degree and practiced international trade law in Ottawa. His interest in government led him to apply to the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA) as a part-time student while running his law practice.
“It was exactly what I was looking for,” recalls Mr. Naqvi. “From a practitioner’s perspective, it was a really hands-on graduate program that I thoroughly enjoyed. I still rely on a lot of the things I learned.”
In 2007, he won his first election to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and has since served in a number of positions as a parliamentary assistant, then as Minister of Labour and of Community Safety and Correctional Services. In 2016, he was sworn in as Ontario’s Attorney General.
“It is an unbelievable privilege to be able to serve my community and my country in this way. I truly cherish it,” says Mr. Naqvi.
For would-be politicians, his advice is simple: get involved in the community and work hard.
“You need to have a connection to the community, to its rhythm and its challenges. You need to be able to live and breathe those,” he says. “And you have to be a people person.”