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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!

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An Indian Origin Woman Minister in the Government of British Columbia

As member of the British Columbia legislative assembly, she is a minister representing the Liberal Party in the government headed by Premier John Horgan.

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British Columbia, the Canadian province that is a leader in technology and has one of the fastest growing tech ecosystems in the world
British Columbian Flag.Wikimedia commons

From Canada, that boasts of a first Indian-origin Defence Minister in Harjit Singh Sajjan, here is the story of another Indian-origin woman migrant who has risen to become a minister in the government of the British Columbia — the Western-most province of the country known for its tech prowess globally.

Meet Jinny Jogindera Sims, who was born in Jalandhar in Punjab and migrated at age nine to England where she got a B.Ed degree at the University of Manchester.

Then, Sims and her husband moved to Canada in 1976. The first woman President of British Columbia’s largest teachers’ union, she was elected to the Canadian Parliament in 2011.

The 65-year-old mother of two, who now heads the Ministry of Citizens’ Services of British Columbia, is quite passionate about her job.

In a conversation with IANS, when asked about Canada’s inclusive nature and how emigrants like her can make it to the top in different fields including political power, pat came her reply: “If you ask me is there more we can do, my answer will be absolutely. We need to do more on aboriginals and the nations’ ethnic communities”.

“We need to do more. Inclusivism and racism is not a one-time issue. We need to do more for their education and other issues. We need to do it all the time”.

Asked about Indians and attracting the talent in the growing tech sector of British Columbia, Sims said Indians have made a name for themselves in the tech and other sectors and are in the forefront.

“I have been to India as an MP to various cities, including Bengaluru and Kolkata. Looking at the skills and talent and amazing companies, India is important in the tech sector. We are looking at new cooperation with Indian tech companies,” she emphasised.

As member of the British Columbia legislative assembly, she is a minister representing the Liberal Party in the government headed by Premier John Horgan.

The 65-year-old mother of two, who now heads the Ministry of Citizens' Services of British Columbia, is quite passionate about her job.
Then, Sims and her husband moved to Canada in 1976. The first woman President of British Columbia’s largest teachers’ union, she was elected to the Canadian Parliament in 2011. Pixabay

Asked about her ministry’s work, Sims said her department has gone more digital in delivering services to citizens and that has brought its own problems.

Cyber crime, fake news and other related problems faced by the countries across the world are also her main problems.

“Digital economy is growing. More and more people are getting sophisticated and trying to commit cyber crimes. We are engaged more with businesses that are worried that more people are trying to get information online through Internet bandits.

“We are telling businesses to build extra layers of security. It is like when we construct a home, we have doors and windows which we close for security. Likewise, businesses have to build layers of security like Next-Gen anti-virus solutions and firewalls,” the minister stressed.

She said her ministry is very agile on cyber security and has become smarter with time.

“They (cyber-criminals) have got technology and are, all the time, trying to get into our systems. Nearly 300,000 systems were affected which is mind-boggling. It also shows we have to be extra-cautious, building firewalls and constantly monitoring them,” Sims said.

Asked about the problem of data stealing and stalking over social media platforms, Sims said the government’s role in this is limited.

As a mother and a grandmother, she would only advise that schools and parents have to tell children on the newer risks arising from the use of Internet.

“Parents can limit the children from accessing Internet. We can teach and guide them on cyber security. Businesses also have a responsibility,” Sims added.

Indian-American Diaspora: Indian-American Diaspora Plays an Important Role in Country’s Development

The identity cards issued by her government for accessing citizens’ services have high-security features and cannot be breached for extracting personal details.

“Our ID cards, personal details are never shared with anyone. There is nothing that goes out from our portal,” she noted.

Asked if she was aware of the controversy surrounding the Aadhaar card in India, the minister said, “a little bit”. (IANS)