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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

In the Name of Kabaddi, Punjab Youth Stay Back in Canada

"Misrepresentation and fraudulent documentation are of concern. Fraudulent documentation, including photo-substituted evidence of applicants playing kabaddi, have been encountered among the supporting documentation submitted with applications," it added

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A Kabaddi match (Representational image). Wikimedia

By Jaideep Sarin

Traditionally a tough, rural sport practised by ‘pehlwans’ in villages across the length and breadth of India, kabaddi has been flying high in recent years due to the money and glamour brought in by the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL).

This new-found professionalism has certainly helped the top-level players and turned this typically ‘desi’ sport into a lucrative career option.

But going by a longstanding trend in Punjab, the benefits are yet to trickle down to the average athlete at the village level in the state.

Generally considered to be one of the traditional powerhouses of kabaddi in the country, players from Punjab are making news in faraway Canada for the wrong reasons.

Nearly 47 per cent of the youth going to the country in the name of participating in Kabaddi tournaments have failed to return, a confidential report of the Canadian government has pointed out.

“In 2015, 2016 and 2017, visas were issued to 261 kabaddi players. Forty seven percent of them failed to report back to the migration office in Chandigarh, 26 per cent obtained work permits after entry to Canada and 1 per cent made refugee claims,” the internal report of Canada’s Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (Ministry), which is with IANS, has stated.

“While the rate of return increased from 42 per cent in 2015 to 62 per cent in 2017, the rate of persons obtaining work permits unrelated to Kabaddi has also increased from 21 per cent to 30 per cent,” it pointed out.

The youth are invited to Canada by kabaddi federations based there to play matches organised by the strong Indian community residing in the country.

“The rate of players who obtained work permits after entry to Canada (26 per cent) in 2015, 2016 and 2017 suggests that they intended to enter Canada primarily for long-term work unrelated to playing Kabaddi,” the report said.

Abhishek said it was all due to the league getting bigger and better every season.
In the name of Kabaddi, Punjab youth stay back in Canada. Wikimedia

Selection by a Canada-based kabaddi federation for visa facilitation effectively allowed the players to circumvent the conventional examination of work permit applications at a migration office outside of Canada.

With an increasing number of youth applying for Canadian visa in the name of kabaddi, the Canadian ministry, in 2017, had invited kabaddi federations in Canada to participate in a pilot programme related to the sport.

Players and federations were informed of the requirement to report back to the migration office at the conclusion of the season in Canada in December 2017. That year, 78 kabaddi players’ applications were approved for the four inviting federations. Of these, only 62 per cent reported back while 30 percent stayed back and obtained a work permit by presenting themselves with a labour market impact assessment at a land port of entry as “visa exempt” clients.

Among the four federations, according to the report, players of two federations had a rate of return of 29 per cent only. Players of the other two federations had an 88 per cent rate of return.

When contacted by IANS, officials at the national kabaddi federation refused to comment on the issue.

“The federation has nothing to do with this issue. These players go abroad on their personal initiative and at the behest of tournament organisers over there,” an official said on condition of anonymity.

Earlier, rate of refusal of visa applications for Kabaddi players was as high as 65 per cent (in 2014).

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Canada’s Chandigarh visa office receives the vast majority of temporary resident applications from kabaddi players wishing to play in Canada.

“Kabaddi players applying through Chandigarh are typically young, single unsalaried males with limited economic prospects in their home county. Most belong to rural agricultural families with modest land holdings which may be held in common with several persons. Most applicants play for their village club which is usually supported by local patrons. It is difficult to gauge a player’s skill or standing in the sport as there is no formal structure at this level,” the report pointed out.

“Misrepresentation and fraudulent documentation are of concern. Fraudulent documentation, including photo-substituted evidence of applicants playing kabaddi, have been encountered among the supporting documentation submitted with applications,” it added. (IANS)