New Canadian Media

THE 100 Year Journey annual gala on Saturday, October 1 celebrated past, present, and future Indo-Canadian trailblazers. The evening built upon the last two year’s historical reflections with an awards program that recognized current and future pillars of the community with six individuals who have opened doors and broken new ground as “Pioneers” and “Navigators” and one individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the Indo-Canadian community as an “Ambassador”.

Indo-Canadian Voice

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Published in National

Review by Anita Singh in Toronto

Almost 40 years ago, my grandparents changed our family’s history by deciding to move to Canada. I recently asked my grandma about her immigration story. 

She wistfully told me of the navy blue suits tailored for her husband and sons, her special saree, and the frock for her then-young daughter to wear on the flight.

With amazing clarity for her 80-plus years, Dadi recounted the first house she bought with my grandfather, how every member of the family worked to make sure the mortgage was paid and how they slowly but surely made Canada their home. 

Weather-Permitting & Other Stories’ by Pratap Reddy is a collection of stories that taps into a similar wistfulness. The 12 short stories in this collection wonderfully narrate some of the universal aspects of the immigrant experience – the nervous excitement, inherent disappointment, and yet, steadfast determination for success.

What makes this collection unique is Reddy’s willingness to talk about the darker side of this experience. His stories do not shy away from broken marriages, children sent back to India to stay with grandparents, the disabling lack of Canadian experience or education to gain employment, and most significantly, the loneliness associated with being far away from ‘home’. 

Unrealized Expectations

In ‘Going West’, the character named ‘The Prince’ is a creative foil to the newly-arrived Kumar, foreshadowing the learning curve of each immigrant when coming to Canada.  “You should approach an employment agency.  They pay about 12 dollars an hour for factory jobs,” he suggests, highlighting the reality of some immigrants as they try to gain any foothold in Canada. 

Kumar wonders, “Did he think I came halfway across the globe to become general labour?  The Prince was aware that I had held a middle level position in HR in India.”

Reddy also does an excellent job narrating the different stages of the immigrant journey, which does not begin or end on arrival in Canada, but lingers every day.

In ‘The Toy Flamingo,’ Venky, despite being settled in Canada for 10 years, discovers that an important part of his personal history still lies in India. As he surrounds himself with people and places in his new homeland, an uninvited memory invades Venky’s outwardly perfect life, “‘Hasve agataday’ I cry out. Something falls to the ground with a crash.  I hear him mutter in a strange language.  I’m certain now that dinner will take even longer to come.” 

Venky’s lifestory is an excellent metaphor for how an immigrant’s relationship with their former homelands continue to affect their lives – even while attempting, desperately even, to become Canadian.  

Kumar wonders, “Did he think I came halfway across the globe to become general labour?  The Prince was aware that I had held a middle level position in HR in India.”

Relying on stereotype

However, as a second-generation Canadian, I do take issue with Reddy’s continuous reliance on the stereotype that portrays settled Indo-Canadians as selfish, distant, uncouth and presumptuously inhospitable, who lose their ‘Indianness’ in their adoption of a new life in Canada.

This anti-Indo-Canadian bias runs tacitly throughout the collection.

In ‘Mango Fool,’ Kavita describes her Indo-Canadian customer as “a big woman, bulging out of her blue jeans and nondescript top” who becomes hostile when questioned about her sale purchases.  In this story, Reddy pits the niceties of Kavita’s Indian sensibilities against the brashness of the Indo-Canadian customer. Settled immigrants in Canada, Shyam and Shilpa in ‘Her White Christmas’ are barely tolerant of Shyam’s Indian mother’s presence in their home, while in ‘Weather Permitting’, the landlord Maya is scheming and unfair to the newly-immigrated Ravi, eventually kicking him out of the house into the cold Canadian winter. 

In ‘Demon Glass’, the hardworking newcomer Lalita is targeted by the overwhelming libido of Indo-Canadian Prem, who preys on the single mother and her daughter.  And in ‘Going West’, Kumar passes considerable judgment on his first entry into the Patel guesthouse, noting “I was at once assailed by the stale aroma of Indian cooking.  I had not experienced such a powerful bouquet in India where a billion mouths fed on Indian cuisine everyday.”

Reddy has told a one-dimensional story about Indo-Canadians, missing an opportunity to include the positives of the immigrant experience that have emerged from 100 years of Indian immigration to Canada.  He ignores how the Indo-Canadian community has succeeded in developing a comfortable co-existence of Indianness and Canadianess, where cultural events, places of worship, cricket pitches, Indian languages and arts schools create a home and community for many immigrants, while becoming an integral part of Canada’s multicultural society.

Despite these misgivings, Weather Permitting and Other Stories is a welcome addition to the growing Canadian literature on immigration. I look forward to Reddy’s forthcoming full-length novel and new collection of short stories as an ongoing contribution to this important literature.

Anita Singh is Toronto-based consultant and a Research Fellow at the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies at Dalhousie University. Her research examines the role of diaspora groups and their influence on foreign policy, particularly the Indo-Canadian community and Canada-India relations.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Books

SURREY – Young Indo-Canadian wrestler Jason Bains from Queen Elizabeth Secondary school is having the Grad year of his life after he won a Gold at a recent tournament in Alberta.

Bains dominated the 2016 Asics Cadet/Juvenile Canadian Wrestling Championships at the University of Calgary April 15-17 and came home with a gold medal in the 100kg (220 lbs.) Juvenile Mens freestyle division.

For the 6’2” Bains, wrestling is in his blood, with his uncle, father and two older brothers all successful wrestlers in both Canada and India, reported Surrey-Leader Newspaper.

The Link

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Published in Arts & Culture

 

Justice Murray Blok convicted Jagtar Singh Dehal, 49, of possessing ketamine for the purpose of trafficking, handing him a three year sentence. Because of Dehal’s immigration status, a sentence of six months or more means he is subject to deportation proceedings without the right of appeal. Dehal was living apart from his wife and daughter [...]

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Published in India

DEEPAK Sharma has become the first ever Indo-Canadian president of Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS). He was elected on March 25 and begins his term on May 1.

The SFSS is a student-led organization that represents and advocates for the interests of the 26,000-plus undergraduate students at SFU.

Indo-Canadian Voice

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Published in Education

By Balwant Sanghera
A number of Indo-Canadian seniors enjoy their time at India Cultural Centre of Canada’s Gurdwara Nanak Niwas. Jointly sponsored by the Gurdwara and Richmond Multicultural Community Services (RMCS), the Chai Chaupal program encourages them to meet at the Gurdwara every Monday morning.  Some of them participate in a yoga session conducted by instructor [...]

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Published in Health

by Eddie Ameh in Ottawa 

Fifty prominent Indo-Canadians were recognized in Ottawa recently for promoting and fostering India-Canada relations. 

Carleton University hosted a celebration of their achievements on Feb. 4, alongside a launch for The A-List, a book compilation of their stories written by Indo-Canadian journalist, Ajit Jain. 

Now in its second edition, The A-List features Canadians of Indian origin who through their various careers and community efforts have helped promote relations between the two countries. This year’s event also celebrated three Canadians considered “friends of India” who have made similar efforts. 

An all-inclusive list 

Four cabinet members from the new Liberal government were recognized for bringing joy and pride to the Indo-Canadian community. 

Minister for infrastructure, Amarjeet Sohi; minister for small businesses and tourism, Bardish Chagger; national defence minister, Harjit Sajjan, as well as Navdeep Bains, minister of innovation, science and economic development make up the highest number of Indo-Canadians in the federal cabinet in the history of Canada. 

They also set the record as the highest number of cabinet ministers appointed who are visible minorities from one particular country. 

“They have raised the profile of other Indo-Canadians to greater heights by virtue of leadership in their respective fields.”

In addition, the list includes 90-year-old world-renowned geologist Dr. Deshbandhu Sikka, who discovered magnetic iron ore deposits in Kudremukh, Karnataka, India. Sikka also discovered gold and copper deposits in billions of quantities in India’s Madhya Pradesh. 

The A-List also features 24-year-old Manasvi Noel, currently Miss India-Canada, who was born in Dubai to Indian parents and immigrated to Canada. She traveled to Mumbai to learn belly dancing, which she performed at the Miss India-Canada competition. 

“They have raised the profile of other Indo-Canadians to greater heights by virtue of leadership in their respective fields,” said Jain at the launch. 

A-Listers are ‘bridge builders’ 

According to The A-List, between 1946 and 1955, there were a total of 1,100 Indians, then referred to as persons of East Indian origin, in Canada. Today, there are more than one million Indo-Canadians in Canada. 

There are now 20 members of Parliament (MPs) of Indian descent – four of whom are cabinet ministers in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government – compared to in 1993 when there were just three MPs. 

“What a proud moment it is for us,” Jain said. 

“What a proud moment it is for us.”

The A-List was created to honour Indo-Canadians who continue to inspire others in the diaspora. 

“They are the bridge builders between Canada and India,” Jain added. 

President of Carleton University, Roseann O’Reilly Runte, commended the efforts and services of those who made the list in fostering stronger ties between Canada and India. She called their stories “very extraordinary.” 

Runte went on to acknowledge the growing ties between Canada and India as “a great partnership.” 

She said this was special because Canadian and Indian collaboration in education has a rich history, hence Carleton University hosting the book launch. Currently, the school has partnered with other universities in India where students embark on exchange programs. 

Runte said Carleton University has more students who have gone to India than any other university in Ontario. 

Great, pluralism and jugaad 

Eight out of the 50 people named in The A-List were present at the ceremony and received copies of the book from Runte. 

“There are three things that define us as Indo-Canadians," said Dilip Soman, professor of marketing at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. "These three things are great, pluralism and jugaad.”  

Jugaad is a Hindi word, which means the ability to improvise and make do with what’s available. 

“... [W]e need to think about ways we can better support new Indo-Canadians and help them succeed.”

Soman, who moved to Canada 14 years ago from the U.S., was also named in The A-List. He said he was honoured to be recognized and that there are others who are also promoting Indo-Canadian relations positively in their own endeavours. 

The A-List is amazing, but I think it is just [the] tip of the iceberg,” he said. “There are many people who I think are doing amazing works, but are not on The A-List.” 

He added, “There are a lot of people whose works go unrecognized because there isn’t enough in terms of pages.” 

Soman said there there are also people who will not be written about because they may not have the opportunity to achieve success.  

“As a country and as a community, we need to think about ways we can better support new Indo-Canadians and help them succeed in anything that they choose to do,” he said. 

The best way to avoid situations where Indo-Canadians do not achieve their dreams when they come to Canada, he explained, is to support them when they first arrive in the country. 

He also urged his other colleagues on The A-List to learn from each other and build a more solid Indo-Canadian community. 

The A-List, which has already recognized the work of 100 Indo-Canadians, will honour more in the coming years, as Jain and his team have already started the 2017 list.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

 

Published in Books
Saturday, 28 November 2015 16:24

Why Indo-Canadians Succeed in Politics

by Anita Singh in Toronto

With a tour in Bosnia, three tours in Afghanistan and a 15-year career in the Gang and Drug Unit of the Vancouver police, the new Minister of Defence, Harjit Sajjan, has been lauded as an exceptional choice for the post due to his significant experience. 

Despite these qualifications, Sajjan was the target of an inappropriate comment made by a high-ranking member of the Canadian forces on Facebook. The comment pertained to Sajjan’s racial background, and while the post itself was not made public and the department’s response was swift, it did raise the question of how members of the Canadian cabinet were perceived—particularly those that come from ethnic or immigrant backgrounds.

Considering this, what explains why Indo-Canadians have had such success in elections and in receiving Cabinet positions?  

In a “cabinet that looks like Canada", seven of 28 Ministers in Prime Minister Trudeau’s new Cabinet are members of a minority group; four of those seven come from Indo-Canadian backgrounds. This proportion isn’t surprising, given that more than half of all immigrant MPs elected into the Liberal caucus come from Indian backgrounds. 

Why Indo-Canadians?

There are a few reasons why this may be the case. 

Indo-Canadian immigrants have been long familiarized with the political system that exists in Canada. Since India’s independence in 1947, Indians have operated within a bicameral British parliamentary system. In fact, India’s political system has complexities that make Canada’s elections seem like a walk in the park.  

India has 1761 registered political parties, six of which have official status at the national level and 23 of which are represented in the current government. Its elections are massive affairs, demonstrated by the fact that 8251 candidates ran for a mere 545 seats in India’s last election.

In addition to this complexity, a total of 131 seats are reserved for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. Two additional seats are reserved for the Anglo-Indian community, and if Women’s Reservation bill finally passes, eventually 33 per cent of the lower house will be reserved for women.

If you can navigate India’s democracy, Canada offers a welcome simplicity within a familiar political system.

Seven of 28 Ministers in Prime Minister Trudeau’s new Cabinet are members of a minority group.
 

History also makes a compelling case for Indo-Canadians' current involvement in Canadian politics. While others have rightly noted that Indo-Canadians were not actively contesting elections until later in the 20th century, the community has been very politically active since the arrival of the first Indo-Canadians in the early 1900s.  

One hundred years ago, Indo-Canadians formed the first ethnic political organizations in the country to contest the restrictions against Indians in those early days. They challenged race-based immigration policies, landing fees charged to Indian immigrants arriving by port, in addition to the rights to own property, run businesses and of course, to vote. 

Needless to say, there is a deep history of engagement from the Indo-Canadian community in the Canadian political system.

What explains Indo-Canadian success in cabinet? 

In some ways, there is evidence that success has indeed bred success. 

In the 1990s, Herb Dhaliwal made history as the first Indo-Canadian cabinet minister, holding significant portfolios such as National Revenue, Fisheries and Oceans and Natural Resources.  

Similarly, Ujjal Dosanjh held the Ministry of Health in the Paul Martin government, but only after serving as the first (and only) Indo-Canadian provincial premier in Canadian history.

Canada offers a welcome simplicity within a familiar political system.

Further, Indo-Canadians have exhibited a high level of political success, but this is not limited to electoral politics. There is significant integration of Indo-Canadian interests in non-profit, community-based and interest group organizations.

Organizations like Seva Food Bank in Peel Region, VIBC in the Greater Vancouver Region and the India-Canada Women’s Association have provided important platforms for social engagement for Indo-Canadians.It has resulted in a community that is engaged, comfortable and active in Canadian political and social environments. 

What's more, increasing numbers of second generation Indo-Canadians have run for federal office, combining their familiarity with Canadian politics and community activism with significant professional experience. 

Numerous examples exist within the current Liberal caucus, including Amarjeet Sohi, Anju Dhillon and Kamal Khera. From this group of young, ambitious Indo-Canadians, Bardish Chadder, a first time MP, has become the Minister of Small Business and Tourism in the Trudeau cabinet.

What does this mean for other immigrant groups in the country?

There’s no ultimate answer as to why Indo-Canadians have been successful in the Canadian political environment and more significantly, in Cabinet. 

Instead, the explanation lies in the congruence of numerous historical, experiential, political and personal reasons. There is no reason why Chinese, Filipino, Middle Eastern or Eastern European communities could not be similarly successful. 

There are hopeful signs that other communities have started on this trajectory. In particular, the accomplishments of first-time MPs Ahmed Hussen and Maryam Monsef from the Somali-Canadian and Afghani-Canadian communities demonstrate that the Canadian parliament is well on its way to truly becoming a representative institution for Canada’s immigrant communities.

But representation in parliament does not mean much unless it translates to representation in cabinet. At least Prime Minister Trudeau’s cabinet is a solid step in the right direction.


 Anita Singh is a founding partner of Tahlan, Jorden & Singh Consulting Group and a Research Fellow at the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies at Dalhousie University. Her research examines the role of diaspora groups and their influence on foreign policy, particularly the Indo-Canadian community and Canada-India relations.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Commentary

Manmeet Bhullar

News East West

TORONTO: Former Alberta minister Manmeet Bhullar, who at the age of 28 became the youngest Indo-Canadian to get elected as an MLA, was killed

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Published in Politics

Beeba Boys have hit the big screens. The fictional account of the Indo-Canadian gang-involved young men of the Lower Mainland has added a buzz to the movie world.
The theme of the movie touches the sensitive core of the issue our suburbs are facing; the young men totting guns on our streets day [...]

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Published in Arts & Culture
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Poll Question

Do you agree with the new immigration levels for 2017?

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Featured Quote

The honest truth is there is still reluctance around immigration policy... When we want to talk about immigration and we say we want to bring more immigrants in because it's good for the economy, we still get pushback.

-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit

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