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Sikhs and their phenomenal rise in Canada

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Photo: www.sikhtrend.com

By Anirudh Bhattacharyya

Last week, as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a student at the American University in Washington DC that he had more Sikhs in his cabinet than his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, he was stating a fact but also being facetious.

He appointed four Sikhs in November, giving the high-profile national defense portfolio to combat veteran Harjit Sajjan. But that throwaway remark was evidence of the evolution of the Sikh community in Canadian politics.

“There’s a certain amount of pride and it speaks to Canada’s multicultural policy but I don’t see it as a challenge to India,” said Satwinder Kaur Bains, director of the Center for Indo-Canadian Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, British Columbia.

While the cliché coming-of-age has often been applied to such moments in time, in this context it’s “very very appropriate”, Bains said.

But it isn’t just in the cabinet that Sikhs are becoming more influential. Recent changes to immigration policy, announced this month by the new Liberal Party government, simplified the process of family reunification and removed the waiting period for spouses to become permanent residents, both significant demands within the community.

As Bains pointed out, “The Sikh community has remained invested in its culture. India is still the main source country for marriage. The fourth cohort of Indo-Canadians didn’t want to see that eroded.”

Canada’s Sikh population is estimated to be between 500,000 and 700,000, and as a percentage of the country’s population may be higher than that in India. But its political significance has increased because it is concentrated largely in the Greater Toronto Area and the Vancouver Metro region, with their wealth of seats that decide electoral majorities.

The Liberal Party’s victory in the 2015 parliamentary election can partly be attributed to winning over the community. In fact, its campaign graphic for how the middle-class would benefit from proposed tax cuts showed a family named Singh.

“If you simply look at the numbers, it’s a significant change. That’s a sizeable portion of the cabinet,” said Shinder Purewal, professor of political science at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, BC.

But Purewal, who ran as a Liberal candidate for parliament twice, was sceptical of the impact this will have long-term, even as he described Trudeau’s statement as “childish”.

“Individuals have become more powerful. But it’s the bureaucracy that makes the decisions. You don’t see Sikhs here. Same thing, perhaps, in private boards. I want to see if this trend of political power leads to more power in the public and private sectors.”

Herb Dhaliwal, the first Indo-Canadian and Sikh to be appointed a minister in the Western world, on the other hand, is thrilled: “I’m proud that others have come forward. There are more Sikhs with much bigger portfolios. That says a lot about our country.”

Sikh symbols like the turban or kirpan are no longer alien to Canada. Unlike in the US, where Sikh stand-up comedian Jus Reign recently had to remove his headwear for security reasons, in Canada their higher profile has meant greater understanding.

“There is no why, just because. Sikhs are part of the Canadian mosaic,” Bains said, stressing the country’s policy of multiculturalism, even with its faults, had helped the process. That mainstreaming of Sikhs has helped them win nearly 20 seats in this House of Commons, with a handful in non-traditional areas.

Dhaliwal made history in 1997, and Bains believes “each minister will say they stand on the shoulders of giants”.

Sikhs have been engaged in Canadian politics since they first came to the country, but it took nearly 90 years for them to arrive in Ottawa, the capital and centre of political power in Canada.

Source: Hindustan Times

  • Shriya Katoch

    Justin Trudeau is highly progressive.With allocating half of its cabinet to females and appointing Sikhs .He truly knows about demographics.

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Yes indeed. If there are so many Sikhs in Canada, they should be given some kind of reservations as we have for Anglo-Indians. This is a very good step taken to unify people. Great going Mr Justin Trudeau!

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  • Shriya Katoch

    Justin Trudeau is highly progressive.With allocating half of its cabinet to females and appointing Sikhs .He truly knows about demographics.

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Yes indeed. If there are so many Sikhs in Canada, they should be given some kind of reservations as we have for Anglo-Indians. This is a very good step taken to unify people. Great going Mr Justin Trudeau!

Next Story

Sikhs In U.S. To Donate Funds, Food To Unpaid TSA Workers

Leading the community efforts, Khalsa is currently working with several local grocery stores that are eager to offer foodstuff at discounted prizes. 

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Photo: metro.co.uk

Two Sikh communities in the US state of Indiana will donate funds and food to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers, as they remain unpaid due to the ongoing partial government shutdown.

The Sikh community of Fishers, Indiana, and Gurinder Singh Khalsa of SikhsPAC, a national Sikh political action committee, are coordinating with Mario Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Indianapolis Airport Authority, and Aaron Batt, TSA Federal Security Director, to support TSA agents, who are impacted by the shutdown, the American Bazaar news portal reported on Thursday.

“The community has come forward and is keen to support the workers who are undergoing the crisis of missing their paychecks,” Khalsa told the portal.

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Sikhs in US to donate funds, food to unpaid federal workers,representational image

He said that $5,000 in gift/grocery cards and more than $5,000 worth of hot food will be delivered to the TSA agents at the Indianapolis Airport on January 28.

Leading the community efforts, Khalsa is currently working with several local grocery stores that are eager to offer foodstuff at discounted prizes.

“We are looking at the places that can offer us good discounts so that we can deliver maximum stuff to workers affected,” he said.

TSA official Batt said the communities’ efforts were “overwhelming and amazing”.

To ensure that the community is able to offer helping hands to federal workers until the shutdown ends, the Sikhs in Fishers have vowed to encourage more Sikh temples and faith-based organisations in the state to come forward in assisting in the coming weeks if needed.

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Leading the community efforts, Khalsa is currently working with several local grocery stores that are eager to offer foodstuff at discounted prizes.  ( IANS)

“Our community kitchen will continue serving every Sunday and we will deliver hot food weekly to our TSA public servants on a weekly basis until the shutdown is lifted,” Khalsa said.

TSA falls under the Department of Homeland Security and has about 60,000 employees.

Its workers are one of the lowest paid employees and have been working without pay since the shutdown began on December 22.

Also Read: Are Indian Scientists’ Minds Cluttered With Prejudices?

TSA also has a much larger minority concentration of employees with about 22.9 per cent of them being African American employees, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics.

The partial government shutdown continues as President Donald Trump demands $5.7 billion for a wall along the US-Mexico border and Democratic lawmakers decline to approve it.

Roughly 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed or are working without pay since then. (IANS)