Vol 8-No. 5



South Asian community active in Canada's Election

 Ten elected for 40th Parliament

In the recent federal election, the South Asian community was quite active, perhaps more than any other visible minority in Canada.

South Asians are the largest visible minority and immigrant group in Canada. Nearly 1.3 million people — a 38 per cent increase over 2001 — identified themselves in 2006 census as South Asian, which includes Canadians who came from countries like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal. They accounted for 24.9 per cent of the visible minority population and 4 per cent of the total population.

The Conservatives and the Liberals nominated about two dozen candidates from the South Asian diaspora. The  third biggest party, the NDP, alone nominated almost two dozen South Asian candidates. In demographic terms, the NDP  nominated more than half its candidates in the GTA who are from South Asian communities.

NDP nominated candidates for Brampton ridings were all from the Punjabi Sikh community. Three among the five constituencies in Mississauga were contested by South Asians. A Pakistani descendant and a Bengali descendant ran for two Scarborough ridings. NDP candidates for Toronto Centre, St. Paul's and Etobicoke North were of South Asian background.

Ten South Asians in Parliament

For elections held on October 14, 2008 for Canada's 40th Parliament, ten South Asians were elected in the 308-member parliament. Of these nine Indo-Canadians elected as MPs are of Punjabi origin. There are half a million Punjabis in Canada.

They have been elected not just by South Asian voters but all voters, based on the party they represented. As Gurbax Malhi, first turbaned Sikh to become an MP in Canada in 1993, back in parliament for the sixth time, told IANS, "The secret of my success are my diverse constituents - 50 percent of whom are white. I listen to them, I am where they want me to be and I raise their concerns in parliament." 

It is more than a token presence in the Parliament. One can say that they have joined the so-called 'mainstream' politicians in Canada.

Navdeep Bains, born in Toronto, Ontario in 1977, has been re-elected to the Parliament for the third time. He had made history, in July 2004, by becoming the second youngest person to become a legislator in North America. (Rahim Jaffer, who was not re-elected this year, is known to be the first one when he was first elected in 1997.) 

After his re-election, Bains said that, "None of my past successes would have been possible without the dedicated volunteers and supporters who fought without fail on each of our campaigns. This latest victory was especially hard-won and our result is a testament to the solid campaign which we ran, a campaign built on people.

"When the 40th Parliament begins, my Liberal colleagues and I will have a crucial job to continue to hold the Government to account and present Canadians with a better vision for our country."

Sukh Dhaliwal, born November 1, 1960 in Punjab, India, has been re-elected to the Parliament from the riding of Newton-North Delta. He was first elected in 2006. An engineering graduate from Alberta, Sukh moved to Surrey and started his own land surveying company, He has been an active member of the community. Upon his victory, he said, "Representing the issues, concerns and problems that you bring forth to me is a responsibility that I take very seriously.  I have no power, no ability to create change without your confidence, and it is this understanding that guides me in Ottawa."

Ujjal Dosanjh, born September 9, 1947, Jalandhar, India, the former Minister of Health (from July 2004 to February 2006), in the Liberal Government, a former NDP premier of British Columbia (the first non-white to become premier in Canada), was reelected for the third term in Parliament. 

Ruby Dhalla has been re-elected to the Parliament. In July 2004, she had come to the riding as a Martin 'appointee'. By her dedicated work for the community, she has been rewarded by her constituents, even though the Conservative Party made gains in the so-called Liberal "immigrant and newcomer" territory. 

Nina Grewal, Canada's first Indian-origin MP from Fleetwood-Port Kells in British Columbia province, was re-elected for the third term. Thanking her supporters following the victory, Conservative MP Nina Grewal, who was re-elected in a landslide victory said she was pleased with the result despite it resulting in another minority government.

"I worked so hard for the people of Fleetwood-Port Kells; my work speaks for itself," she said.

Yasmin Ratansi from Ontario, were re-elected. With Ruby Dhalla, they  form a 'trio' of first South Asian women in Parliament. They join Mobina Jaffer (from BC), the first South Asian Senator, who was appointed by  Prime Minister Jean Chretien on June 13, 2001_ 

Canada's first female Muslim MP is going back to Parliament for a third consecutive term.

And just as she has done in two previous elections, Yasmin Ratansi won easily in the riding that has been a Liberal stronghold for the past 15 years and is home to the fifth largest immigration population in Canada.

Gurbax Malhi, the first turbaned Sikh to become an MP in Canada in 1993, is back in parliament for the sixth time.

Expressing happiness over the election of another turbaned Sikh, he said: "It is good to have more of our people in positions of importance. Tim Uppal's election is good news for us. He will help spread the message about ourselves - who we are."

In his new term, Malhi said, his priority is to facilitate Canadian visas for visitors from Punjab.

"Right now, the Canadian office in Chandigarh does not issue visas to most people. I introduced a motion on the issue in parliament last year for a bond system and I will do it again now," he said.

The six-time MP said he will also introduce a motion to check fraud marriages by Indian-Canadians in Punjab.

"The motion will make it mandatory that if someone goes to Punjab to get married and bring his or her spouse, he or she should not be allowed to remarry for five years if they divorce after coming to Canada," he said.

Deepak Obhrai, born July 5, 1950 in Oldeani, Tanzania, is a pro in the Parliament. He was first elected to the House of Commons in 1997 on Reform ticket, and re-elected in 2000, 2004, 2006 and 2008. He moved on to Canadian Alliance, and then Progressive Conservative and finally Conservative Party of Canada in 2004.

Chandigarh-educated Obhrai, was re-appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Stephen Harper's cabinet.

He is a past president of the India-Canada Association, the Monterey Community Association and the Hindu Society of Calgary, and Vice-President of the National Indo/Canadian Council.

Devinder Shory, born and raised in Punjab, India, a practising lawyer in Calgary, is another first-time Punjabi MP. He has been elected from Calgary Northeast, beating two fellow Indian-Canadians - Sanam Kang of the Liberal Party and Vinay Dey of the New Democratic Party (NDP). He had previously tried his luck in the Alberta provincial elections.

Tim Uppal, born 1974 in New Westminster, British Columbia, won Edmonton—Sherwood Park in Alberta Province. He will join for the first time the other Indian-origin MPs who have been re-elected to the new house. With Gurbax Malhi and Navdeep Bains, Tim is the third 'turbaned MP' in Canada.

Two sitting MPs who lost election were Wajid Khan and Rahim Jaffar.


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