Canada govt proposes to delay polls next year to avoid Diwali clash | World News - Hindustan Times
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Canada govt proposes to delay polls next year to avoid Diwali clash

Mar 23, 2024 03:41 PM IST

That proposal to shift the polling date to October 27 was part of a package of reforms to the Elections Act which constitute an amendment bill tabled in the House of Commons this week

Toronto: The Canadian government has proposed moving national elections scheduled for October 20 next year by a week so as to accommodate Hindus and other faith communities that will celebrate the festival of Diwali on that day.

Fireworks during the celebration of Diwali at the Hindu Heritage Center in Mississauga, Canada last year. (Credit: Hindu Heritage Center)
Fireworks during the celebration of Diwali at the Hindu Heritage Center in Mississauga, Canada last year. (Credit: Hindu Heritage Center)

That proposal to shift the polling date to October 27 was part of a package of reforms to the Elections Act which constitute an amendment bill tabled in the House of Commons this week. In a press release, the Democratic Institutions department noted the bill aims to enhance voter participation by “ensuring that the fixed date election in 2025 does not conflict with Diwali by moving it to the following Monday”, among other measures.

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The proposed reform was welcomed by the Hindu community, though more substantive measures to combat Hinduphobia were also sought.

Kushagr Sharma, vice-president of the Canadian Hindu Chamber of Commerce (CHCC) pointed out that when municipal elections were held in the province of Ontario last year, and the date clashed with Diwali, there was a 5% decrease in voter turnout, with “significant drops” of 10% in Brampton and 11 per cent in Toronto.

“These are all areas where there is a significant Hindu and other Indic religions. This highlights the impact of scheduling conflicts on civic engagement, particularly given Diwali’s importance for the Hindus and other dharmic faiths in Canada. There is a need for election authorities to consider cultural and religious observances of Hindus to ensure inclusivity and participation in the democratic process,” he said.

The announcement was appreciated by the Canadian chapter of the Coalition of Hindus of North America (CoHNA). Its president Rishabh Sarswat said, “In recent years, the Hindu community has been subjected to a series of attacks by Khalistani protesters, especially around Diwali. The election period may exacerbate risks to the Hindu community, who become more visible during festive seasons due to temple visits and traditional attire.” CoHNA Canada has sought “concrete steps” to safety the community. “For this, Canada needs to tackle systemic issues impacting the Hindu community, particularly the surge in Hinduphobia and the uptick in anti-Hindu hate crimes,” Sarswat added.

Hindu community leaders told the Hindustan Times there is a concerted effort from the ruling Liberal Party to woo it for the national elections. This, they said, is because the community has largely shifted to the opposition Conservative Party due to perceived softness of the Government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau towards pro-Khalistani elements and that negative sentiment has grown following the rupture of the bilateral relationship between Canada and India over the killing of separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey, British Columbia, on June 18 last year.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Anirudh Bhattacharya is a Toronto-based commentator on North American issues, and an author. He has also worked as a journalist in New Delhi and New York spanning print, television and digital media. He tweets as @anirudhb.

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