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Desis influencing Canada politics

Sikhs are one of the most affluent racial minority communities in Canada, says a recent study.

india Updated: Jan 12, 2006 19:31 IST
UK Bureau
UK Bureau

A research conducted recently in Canada makes some interesting observations on South Asian immigrants. For example, Canadian Sikhs are one of the most affluent racial minority communities and Punjabi is the fourth most popular language spoken on Parliament Hills besides English, French and Italian.

The high turnout of Canadian Muslims in 2004 general elections made them appear to have had a say in the victory of the Liberals for whom an overwhelming majority of Muslims cast their votes.

There are more than 700,000 Muslims in Canada, making them the largest non-Christian religious community in the country. In short, South Asians, Muslims, Sikhs, Indians, Pakistanis - are making a difference. Influencing Canadian politics more than ever.

The study observes

- Half of Mississauga's MPs, who are all Liberals, are South Asians including Ruby Dhalla, Navdeep Bains, Wajid Khan and Gurbax Malhi.

- Lahore-born Wajid is a successful businessman, who won a parliament seat in the suburban Toronto constituent of Mississauga-Streetsville.

- Ruby Dhalla, an Indo-Canadian, created history as one of the first South Asian woman to sit in the House of Commons in Canada. Her political stint began at the tender age of 12 when she volunteered for Liberal Party of Canada as part of a national youth program.

- While minorities (including South Asians) have made breakthroughs at the provincial and federal levels, the same gains have not been made by them in municipal politics though, where incumbents (non-minorities) across Ontario have an extremely high success rate in winning re-elections.

Statistically, it helps to be South Asian rather than from another ethnic group.

According to the study, a strong electoral culture of the South Asians in their country of origin helps explain their relative success as comparison to other minority groups "for example the Chinese community, which makes up 38 per cent of Markham's population but has successfully sent only one representative each to the local council and provincial parliament.

"Knowledge of the English language and familiarity with democratic processes tend to be higher among newcomers from India and Pakistan than from other countries without British colonial pasts, making any necessary transitions into the Canadian political system easier," the study found.

The research study titled Seeking Political Inclusion: The Case of South Asian Political Representation in Peel Region was conducted by Ian Matheson, a graduate student in immigration and settlement issues at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada.

(Courtsey: Des Pardes, New Jersey)

First Published: Jan 12, 2006 19:31 IST