Premier Doug Ford and members of the provincial legislature paid tribute to Yusra Javed on Tuesday.
The 21-year-old journalism student and Queen’s Park press gallery intern died in September after a rare autoimmune disorder known as Takayasu Arteritis.
Interning at the legislature for a brief four months in what can often be a hectic environment for journalists, Javed managed to make a name for herself and build many relationships with members of the media.
“Within minutes, we were friends. Basically it was her sheer force of will that created that friendship,” Fatima Syed, a journalist with The Logic, told Global News on Tuesday.
“She just embraced me. She gave me like the biggest hug. Her smile was so inviting.”
Syed recalled walking with Javed into the press gallery lounge and looking at decades old photos of predominantly white male journalists.
“She looked at me and said, ‘I know it’s going to be hard because we are brown women and that’s a struggle in and of itself,'” Syed said.
“I’ll never forget these words. She said, ‘We are brown women but we are made of white steel we can do this.’”
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Allison Jones with the Canadian Press wrote a touching tribute on behalf of the Queen’s Park Press gallery that was read aloud by Speaker Ted Arnott before a moment of silence.
“Yusra’s life was tragically cut short, but it doesn’t feel like that phrase appropriately conveys the enormity of what was lost,” wrote Jones.
“Who would she have become given all the years she deserved to have? How many other lives would she have touched in the way she left such an indelible impression on all of us after just a few months here?
“What those of us in the press gallery can say for certain is that journalism lost one of its brightest stars just as she was beginning to shine.”
Dolly Begum, the NDP MPP for Scarborough Southwest, said Javed didn’t “hold back when asking tough questions.”
“Whether it was a student group, MPPs or the premier, she knew her facts and was quick to correct them when necessary,” Begum said.
“She believed that highlighting the facts and truth was not choosing sides but instead strengthening our democracy. This was her dream and she did it with extraordinary poise.”
Javed’s parents, Sabrina Suraiya and Mohammed Javed, along with her brother Junaid Javed, met with Ford and press gallery members on Tuesday to witness the unveiling of a portrait of Yusra, which will be kept in the press lounge.
Suraiya said her daughter’s drive and passion started early.
“When she was young, ever since then, she always wanted to be a journalist,” she said.
“Whenever we would go out she would see a media van passing by she would say, ‘One day I’m going to be in that van!'”
Longtime television journalist and Queen’s Park Press gallery member Cynthia Mulligan described Yusra as having “a rare energy about her.”
“She simply sparkled with curiosity and enthusiasm. She wanted to learn about everything and understand context. She was well on her way to being a spectacular journalist – and was already a wonderful human being,” Mulligan said.
A scholarship has been setup in Yusra’s honour at Ryerson University’s school of journalism. Junaid said he hopes the recipients of the award in years to come bring faces like his sister’s to places of power.
“They’ll be able to see people who look like them prominent in these types of positions in Queen’s Park, in Parliament Hill, and that would mean so much to myself and my family but it would mean so much for my sister,” he said.
Mohammed said if there’s one lesson above all, he wants the recipients to take from his daughter’s life it is “determination (and) dedication.”
“Nothing is impossible in a life. If you are ambitious and if you have your goal, nothing is impossible that is the determination she had,” he said.