Diversely Indian: Not all Indo-Canadian MPs, ministers are Sikh

A total of 17 Indo-Canadians, the majority of them Sikhs, were elected as MPs when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau clinched a third victory in the September 2021 snap elections by securing 158 seats -- short of the 170 needed for a majority -- in the 338-member House of Commons.

Diversely Indian: Not all Indo-Canadian MPs, ministers are Sikh
Source: IANS

Meenakshi Iyer
New Delhi, Sep 22 (IANS) A total of 17 Indo-Canadians, the majority of them Sikhs, were elected as MPs when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau clinched a third victory in the September 2021 snap elections by securing 158 seats -- short of the 170 needed for a majority -- in the 338-member House of Commons.

Following the elections that came two years before schedule, representatives were elected from five parties -- Liberal, Conservative, New Democratic Party (NDP), Green Party and Bloc Québécois -- to sit in Parliament.

While the ruling Liberal Party has 158 sitting MPs, the official Opposition, Conservative has 117 and Bloc Québécois, 32, followed by Green Party's two.

Trudeau's minority government is backed by the NDP, which is led by Indian-origin Sikh, Jagmeet Singh, and has 25 sitting MPs in the present Parliament.

In 2019, the Canadian Parliament had 18 Sikh MPs, way ahead of the Indian Parliament with 13 MPs, and in 2015, after appointing four Sikhs to his 30-member Cabinet, Trudeau had boasted of having more Sikhs in his government than Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

With over 7.7 lakh Sikhs, constituting roughly two per cent of Canada’s total population, the Punjabi diaspora's increasing political clout in the North American nation is indubitable.

However, not all Indians in the country's Cabinet and Parliament are Sikhs, and a small percentage constitutes Hindus hailing from states like Karnataka, Gujarat and Punjab. It is pertinent to note that not all Punjabis are Sikhs; they could be Muslim, Hindu or Christians.

The ruling Liberal Party has more than 10 Indo-Canadian sitting MPs at present, and out of these four are in the PM's Cabinet with two Sikhs -- Harjit S Sajjan, Kamal Khera, a Hindu, Anita Indira Anand and a Muslim with roots in Gujarat, Arif Virani.

Anita Anand, who was promoted as the President of Treasury Board in a recent Cabinet reshuffle, was the former Defence Minister of Canada and has also served as the Minister of Public Services and Procurement in the past.

Born in 1967 in Nova Scotia to a Punjabi mother and a Tamil father, both physicians, Anita -- having worked as a scholar, lawyer and researcher -- was first elected as the MP for Oakville in 2019.

Reacting to Trudeau's claim of an Indian hand in the murder of Khalistani activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, Anita said it was a "very difficult time" to hear the Prime Minister make the remarks, especially for families who come from India.

"I am thinking about my parents, for example, and I think that sentiment is shared by South Asians and families who come from India, regardless of religion," Anita said, adding that it is "time to let the legal process continue as it must."

"Let us all remain calm, unified, and empathetic because this is the time when families who come from India are going to find it difficult," she said in a video message posted on her X handle.

Anita's late mother, Saroj D Ram, was an accomplished anesthesiologist, while her father, SV (Andy) Anand, excelled as a general surgeon in Canada.

Canadian MP from Ontario, Arif Virani is the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada at present. He belongs to a family of Ismaili Muslims with roots in Ahmedabad, and moved to Canada from Uganda in 1972.

He was first elected as the MP for Parkdale -- High Park in 2015 and was re-elected in 2019 and 2021. Having served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Immigration (2015-2017) Virani helped welcome over 50,000 Syrian refugees to Canada.

Virani was appointed by Trudeau as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Heritage (2017-18), where he worked on multiculturalism and restoring Canada’s anti-racism strategy.

Except for the Hindu-Canadian MP from Nepean, Chandra Arya, the rest of the sitting Liberal MPs are mostly Sikhs. These include, Anju Dhillon, George Chahal, Iqwinder Singh Gaheer, Parm Bains, Sonia Sidhu, Maninder Sidhu, Sukh Dhaliwal and Bardish Chagger.

Arya, a native of Dwarlu village, Karnataka, immigrated to Canada in 2006, and before his political debut, he was the chairman of the Indo-Canada Ottawa Business Chamber.

Among all MPs of Indian descent, cutting across party lines, Arya has been the most vocal supporter of Hindus across Canada and stands in stark contrast to the elected officials who have cold-shouldered rising anti-India and anti-Hindu hate in the country.

Having played a pivotal role in getting November designated as the Hindu Heritage Month in Canada, Arya has vehemently opposed, issued strongly-worded statements, and urged Indian and Canadian governments to act on Hindu hate, temple attacks, vandalism and the now spiralling Khalistan menace, before it's too late.

In a video message shared on X on Thursday, Arya said that he has been targeted by radical elements for raising a flag with Hindu religious sacred symbol Aum on Canadian Parliament hill last year.

Comparing Khalistanis to snakes, the Liberal MP had said in July that "snakes in our backyard are raising their heads and hissing", after Khalistani posters emerged in the country threatening Indian diplomats.

Canada's main Opposition, led by Pierre Poilievre, has four Indo-Canadian MPs, out of which Jasraj Singh Hallan and Tim Uppal are Sikhs, and the other two -- Arpan Khanna and Shuvaloy "Shuv" Majumdar -- are Punjabi and Bengali Hindus respectively.

Khanna, a lawyer from Brampton, made his entry into the House of Commons this year by winning the Oxford by-election for his party. He hails from Dehliz Kalan village in Ludhiana’s Raikot city.

His father, Subhash Khanna, who immigrated to Canada, was a councillor of the Raikot Municipal Council.

Like Khanna, Majumdar also secured a seat in the House of Commons this year, following a by-election victory in Calgary Heritage, a federal electoral district in Alberta province.

He has served in leadership roles promoting democratic reform in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He had criticised the Trudeau government for “vilifying the world’s largest democracy” in response to a post on X by his party leader, which said, "nobody likes to see the Canadian Prime Minister repeatedly humiliated and trampled upon by the rest of the world”, following the reported “snub” of Trudeau at the G20 Summit in New Delhi earlier this month.

"The countdown begins now on how long it takes for the Trudeau government, Liberal insiders, and the woke establishment, to vilify the world’s largest democracy," Majumdar wrote on X.

(Meenakshi Iyer can be contacted at [email protected])