canada: Indo-Canadian MPs many in number but not influential, feels former premier Dosanjh

Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party is back in power to form the government in Canada and New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jagmeet Singh has won his seat of Burnaby South again. There are 17 Indo-Canadians, including former ministers Harjit Sajjan, Anita Anand and Bardish Chagger, who have been elected from their seats. Not much of a change from the last elections in 2019, when 20 Indo-Canadians, including 19 of Punjabi origin, were elected as MPs with four of them becoming Cabinet ministers.
Ujjal Dosanjh, who was the first Indian-Canadian to become premier in Canada, of the province of British Columbia, feels that rather than being excited over the number of members of parliament of Indian origin; it is time for members of the community to work towards gaining more political clout both in parliament as well as in the larger social context. He feels that many have won the elections only because they were representing the right party in the right reading (electoral district) and winning the seat had nothing to do with their individual popularity or influence.
“Whether there are four ministers of Indian origin or two doesn’t really matter; even the portfolios don’t matter. But what a minister or an MP brings to the table in terms of influence in a larger context is important. The following that they have in their constituency and in the larger community and society is what matters. In short, it’s about quality and not quantity,” Dosanjh told TIMESOFINDIA.com from Vancouver. He feels that the Indian American community has not produced too many leaders of that stature yet. Even NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is unlikely to wield too much of clout in the new Canadian government, Dosanjh, who has also served as a Liberal member of parliament and health minister, said. “Trudeau himself is likely to be the progressive face in the government, thus Singh may not be very visible on various issues.”
On the other hand, Anand, a first time MP in 2019, has done an outstanding job as minister of public services and procurement and the receiver-general for Canada, Dosanjh says. “She has handled the job of procurement of Covid-19 vaccines and the response to the pandemic for the country very efficiently.” Significantly, Anand was often seen on the campaign trail with PM Trudeau.
Indian American legislators have a far greater influence in political life and policy initiatives than their Indo-Canadian counterparts, Dosanjh, who immigrated to Canada from Punjab, said. “The Indian American members of Congress are far more outspoken and influential than their Canadian counterparts.”
Iqwinder Gaheer , a first time Liberal MP from Mississauga-Malton, will also be a politician to watch, according to Dosanjh. “He’s just 28 and very articulate. He’s also well-educated and a lawyer from Harvard Law School. He is likely to do well in parliament.” Gaheer was nominated after long-time MP and minister Navdeep Bains, from the same riding, decided not to run again and stepped away from politics. Canada hosts one of the largest Indian diasporas in the world at around 1.6 million; Indian immigrants form around 4% of the population of Canada. The largest number of Indian-Canadians live in the Greater Toronto Area, the Greater Vancouver area, Montreal (Quebec), Calgary (Alberta), Ottawa (Ontario) and Winnipeg (Manitoba).
On the issue of Indo-Canadian diplomatic ties being on the back-burner, Dosanjh feels that it is because of the extremist Khalistani elements, that all political parties in Canada have to pander to as their vote banks. “They play an oversized role in the political arena, and are not so influential in my opinion,” says Dosanjh. Until their voices are muted, no Indian government will warm up to Canada, he adds.



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