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India-born CEO appointed senator in Canada

india Updated: Jan 30, 2010 15:21 IST

Indo-Canadian businessman Vim Kochhar was on Friday nominated to the Canadian senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. When he takes oath, 73-year-old Kochhar will become the first Indian-born senator in Canadian history.

Kochhar, who runs a furniture company in Toronto, is among five new members appointed to the upper chamber of the Canadian parliament Friday. The House of Commons is the lower chamber of parliament.

Founder and CEO of the Vimal Group of Companies in Toronto, Kochhar came to Canada in 1967 after finishing his engineering degree from the University of Texas. He became a Canadian citizen in 1974. From his salary of $200,000 as the CEO of his furniture company, Kochhar will take a cut of $70,000 with the new job of a senator.

Currently, there are 105 member of the Canadian senate - 51 from the ruling Conservative Party and 49 from the opposition Liberal Party. Each member serves till the age of 75 and draws an annual salary of $130,400.

"Money is not everything in life,'' Kochhar told the local media. "We were all getting pretty frustrated the way the whole thing (the Senate) was operating,'' he said, hinting at the majority held by the opposition Liberal Party in the Upper House till now.

Known for his community work, Kochhar set up the Canadian Foundation for Physically Disabled Persons.

He was also instrumental in starting the annual Great Valentine Galas, Rolling Rampage for wheelchair athletes, the Canadian Helen Keller Centre, Rotary Cheshire Homes for the Deaf-Blind, the WhyNot Marathon for the Paralympics, and the Terry Fox Hall of Fame - named after the young Canadian who died of cancer at a very young age.

Kochhar joins Indian-origin, Ugandan-born senator Mobina Jaffer who was appointed to the upper house in 2001.

Since the opposition majority in the Senate till now held up many government legislation, the Canadian prime minister said, "The opposition have abused their Senate majority by obstructing and eviscerating law and order measures that are urgently needed and strongly supported by Canadians.

"These new senators are committed to community safety and justice for the victims of crime."