Indo-Canadians win big as Liberals sweep to power

Newly elected Canadian MP Chandra Arya is a “newbie” in more ways than one. Not only is he a new MP, this tech-entrepreneur joined politics recently, and moved to Canada only 12 years ago. Mr. Arya has been elected from Ottawa along with 19 other Indo-Canadians in the parliamentary elections, one of 18 Liberal candidates who swept to power on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wave. “My constituency has never elected a south Asian before, and Liberals haven’t won it for years,” he told The Hindu over telephone from Ottawa shortly after his win, adding, “It shows how everyone has a chance here.”

When asked if he had ever considered politics while he lived in India, Mr. Arya, who grew up in Bengaluru and was educated at Karnatak University and Bangalore University, before heading several ventures, demurs from answering.

“You must remember that it’s easier in Canada, because 99% of the politicians here are not corrupt.”

Mr. Arya also represents a shift from the past when only Sikh-Canadians were in politics, as it was the community that first immigrated to Canada in the early 1900s, and made a mark there. In the 2015 elections, at least 44 candidates in 338 seats were of Indian origin. Given that Indians make up only 3% of the population, it is surprising that 20 of the 44 won their seats. In a response to The Hindu, Canadian High Commissioner to India Nadir Patel, himself of Indian origin, says that the large number of “Desi” candidates across all parties reflects Canadian society’s “diverse and multicultural nature.”

‘Tough on immigration’

The wins also reflected the larger mood in Canada, that defeated the Conservative party run by Prime Minister Stephen Harper after a 10-year rule. Mr. Harper’s ‘tough on immigration’, right wing policies are seen as one of the reasons for his loss, particularly a bill called C-24 that would give the government inordinate powers on revoking citizenships. While the government said the bill was an anti-terror measure, it evoked worries amongst most immigrant communities. “I think the Conservatives lost because they practised the politics of fear and division,” Mr. Arya told The Hindu.

One of those present at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Toronto address was Deepak Obhrai, one of only two conservative candidates to have won this time.

When asked about how an immigrant could have had such a dream run in Parliament, Mr. Obhrai told The Hindu, “Well it could happen in India too. In 1998, I sat next to I.K. Gujral, who had been migrated during Partition, and slept on the streets before becoming Prime Minister, and he said, ‘It is about where your destiny takes you’.”

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Printable version | Mar 1, 2021 2:07:42 AM |

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