By Prabhjot Singh*
Once Jagrup Brar, a sitting member of the British Columbia Assembly, told me that every migrant Punjabi in Canada has two hearts. While one beats for Canada, the other throbs for Punjab. Jagrup, a former international in basketball, had a point. It gets corroborated every time there is an election in either “Desi” or Indian Punjab or “Videshi” Punjab i.e., Canada.
Like “Desi” Punjab has two parts – “Lehnda” and “Charrdha” Punjab – “Videshi” Punjab, too, has two parts. One is in Ontario and the other one in British Columbia. Going by the growing influence of Punjabis and their clout in provincial and federal politics, a third part of “Videshi” Punjab is fast emerging on the Canadian horizon in Calgary of Alberta province. Last weekend, when Sikh Day Parade dedicated to “Khalsa Divas” was organized, its massive turnout was as good as it is in Toronto or Vancouver.
While “Desi” Punjab had its assembly elections in February, the Ontario based “Videshi” Punjab is in election mode. It will elect its new Assembly on June 2.
Of a record number of 900 candidates, representing 25 different political parties, 60 of the contestants are of South Asian origin. More than one third of them are Punjabis.
“Videshi” Punjabis of Ontario are as democratic as their counterparts in “Desi” Punjab by sharing their loyalties with all major political parties.
A couple of them are also testing their political acumen as Independents.
It is interesting to study the election process in “Desi” and “Videshi” Punjab.
Punjabis love diversity, be it in making a choice of their immigrant destination or politics. Their abilites to relocate and adjust to new environs are tremendous. Many of them may not be able to read or write local languages of their new countries of abode but their matchless ability to converse in local languages facilitates their quick assimilation in alien lands.
Studies conducted from time to time reveal that political influence wielded by the Punjabi community overseas remains mostly confined to suburbs of major cities. In Canada, for example, if the community has made inroads into provincial and federal politics, it is through the suburbs. There are not many South Asian migrants in general and Punjabi in particular, who made it to provincial or federal politics from major cities like Toronto. On doing analysis of their phenomenal growth in politics, one can be safely inferred that suburb of big towns have helped them to script their success stories.
A total of 900 candidates and 25 parties are running in this election. In 2018, there were 825 candidates and 28 parties on the ballot. This represents a 9% increase in the number of candidates and a 10.7% decrease in the number of parties participating.
The coming June 2 election is no different. Five ridings in Brampton – North, South, East, West, and Centre – are dominant Punjabi Ridings. From Brampton East, for example, all the three major political parties – ruling Conservatives, NDP and Liberals – have put up Sikh candidates. The NDP is represented by Gurratan Singh, younger brother of the federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. Then Jannat Grewal is from Liberal while Hardeep Grewal represents the ruling Conservatives.
From Brampton North, it is Harinder Malhi contesting on Liberal ticket. Her father, Gurbax Singh Malhi, was the first turbaned Sikh to sit n House of Commons. He remained MP for five consecutive terms. She is facing Sandeep Singh of NDP while the third candidate of South Asian origin is Aneep Dhade contesting on the Green Party ticket.
Mississauga and Scarborough are the other important parts of Greater Toronto Area that are represented both in provincial and federal parliaments by South Asian migrants.
Bampton West presents a unique picture. Of the four Punjabi contestants, the community has shown excellent gender equality by fielding equal number of men and women candidates. Rimmy Jhajj (Liberal), and Navjit Kaur (NDP) represent the women while Amarjot Sandhu, a sitting MLA of ruling Conservatives, and Manjot Sekhon of Ontario Party, are men candidates.
From five Brampton Ridings, there are 13 Punjabi candidates. One of them, Sara Singh (NDP), the first Canadian of Indo-Caribbean origin to sit in Ontario Provincial Assembly, has an opponent from Pakistani Punjab, Safdar Hussain (Liberal).
Another candidate from Pakistan Punjab is Zaigham Butt from Hamilton East-Stoney Creek. He is a candidate of NDP. A sizeable section of Pakistani Punjabis in Ontario has been a supporter of Jagmeet Singh.
Among the South Asian migrants contesting the June 2 Ontario assembly elections are Sara Singh, Gurratan Singh, Sandeep Singh, Navjit Kaur, Aisha Jahangir, Faheem Alim, Zaigham Butt, Farina Hassan, Khalid Ahmed, Raymond Bhushan, Neethan Shan, Doly Begum, Jasleen Kambo, and Pasma Chandra (all from NDP), Abhjeet Manay, Aneep Dhade, Fatima Faruq, Mini Batra, Nira Dookeran, Priyan De Silva, Rizwan Khan, Shanta Sundarason, Sheefaza Esmail and Syam Chandra (all from Green Party), Aman Gill, Anita Anandarajan, Dipika Damerla, Harinder Malhi, Imran Mian, Jannat Grewal, Kaviz Mouli, Lisa Patel, Mohammed Adil, Manpreet Brar, Mazhar Shafir, Rimmy Jhajj, Ruby Toor, Safdar Hussain, Sam Bhalesar, Sameera Ali, Shubha Sandil, Surekha Shenoy, Zeba Hashmi , and Aziz Choudery (all from Liberals), Hardeep Grewal, Prabhmeet Singh Sarkaria, Amarjot Sandhu. Goldie Ghamari, Logan Kanapathi, Parm Gill, Kaleed Rasheed, Deepak Anand, Nina Tangri, Vijay Thangasalam, and Husain Neemuchwala (all from Progressive Conservative), Manjot Sekhon (Ontario Party), Sadiq Nadia (Ontario Provincial Confederation), Hiten Patel and Birinder Singh Ahluwalia (Independents).
* Prabhjot Singh is a veteran journalist with over three decades of experience covering a wide spectrum of subjects and stories. He has covered Punjab and Sikh affairs for more than three decades besides covering seven Olympics and several major sporting events and hosting TV shows. For more in-depth analysis please visit probingeye.com or follow him on Twitter.com/probingeye