The largest-ever contingent of members of Canada’s Parliament have signed on to be part of the Canada-India Parliamentary Friendship Group, the latest iteration of which was constituted in Ottawa on Wednesday.
The group will be chaired by Chandra Arya, an Indo-Canadian MP in the House of Commons from the Liberal Party and a native of Bengaluru. Speaking to the Hindustan Times, Arya said it was “quite a privilege” to chair the group that has almost 80 members.
“I think this is the biggest ever,” he said.
The meeting for the new group was convened by the senior-most Conservative in the House of Commons, Deepak Obhrai. The members cut across party lines, drawing from the three major Canadian parties – the ruling Liberals, the Conservatives and the NDP.
Members from both chambers of Canada’s Parliament, the Senate and the House of Commons, have joined the group. Among them is Canada’s infrastructure and communities minister Amarjeet Sohi.
This group is the equivalent of the India Caucus in Washington.
Arya said it will act as “a facilitator to strengthen relations between Canada and India” and strive to “shape the socio-economic and political” dynamic between the two nations. He identified as a “priority” working on the free trade agreement between the countries.
He also said the group will work on several fronts ahead of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s forthcoming visit to India.
Wednesday’s meeting was later also attended by Indian High Commissioner Vishnu Prakash, who told Hindustan Times: “I am delighted at the overwhelming support for even closer India-Canada ties among the distinguished parliamentarians, which reflects the dynamism, depth and potential of our bilateral relationship.”
The group has five vice-presidents. Among them are Liberal members of the House of Commons Salma Zaid and Ruby Sahota, as well as Conservative Bob Saroya. The two vice-presidents from the Senate are Conservative Daniel Lang and Liberal Pana Merchant.
Arya said he will initiate the process of converting the group into an association so it can formally establish parliament-to-parliament relations with India.