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Canada Canada Polls: Sikh Issues, Immigration Weighed Heavily On Voters' Minds

Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
May 5, 2011

Canada polls: Sikh issues, immigration weighed heavily on voters' minds

Ramaninder K Bhatia, TNN | May 5, 2011, 10.09pm IST

CHANDIGARH: Post poll reports and community discussions trickling out of Canada, a day after the general elections' results came out, have thrown up some interesting facts.

Many in the Indo-Canadian, particularly, Punjabi community are attributing veteran leader and the first turbaned Sikh MP Gurbax Malhi's defeat to his apparent failure to push for adopting the 1984- riots as 'genocide' resolution in the Parliament strongly. Others say that a vote division in Brampton-Gore-Malton after NDP candidate Jagmeet Singh also raised Sikh issues prominently during his campaign, led to Malhi and Jagmeet's losses. Bal Gosal, the Conservative candidate benefitted the most in this triangular fight between three Punjabi origin candidates.

Star Liberal canddiate, Ruby Dhalla who lost by a substantial margin of over 7000 votes from Parm Gill too, stayed away from the 'riots-genocide' controversy, and was mostly seen in India, than her constituency Brampton-Springldale, which, according to some, lost her the sympathy of a large section of community. Gill, who had lost last elections by a thin margin, won over the voters after matching blows with his rival in a rather vitiated campaign.

For a general election, where 23 Indo-Canadian, mainly Punjabi - origin candidates, were testing their luck at the hustings, and eight of them made it to the Parliament, these were some of the issues which dominated discussions in the million strong Indo-Canadian community.

But, in a scenario where Punjabi origin candidates were locked in bipolar and triangular contests in atleast six ridings, (constituencies), the predominantly Punjabi voter mostly wanted to know the candidates' takes on immigration issues, prompting, even the Canadian Immigration minister to go on Punjabi radio and TV stations frequently to explain the government's stand.

"Punjabi voters were clamouring for easier visa rules, ever since the Canadian government plugged a loophole in the immigration system whereby, one could bring aged parents from India and immediately claim $ 1000 a month pension for them. Now, the parents have to live in Canada for 10 years before they can claim pension," talk show host Kuldip Dipak of radio station, 'Punjab di Goonj' said.

However, many in the community have found another loophole, and are claiming welfare doles for the parents, which led to Canadian authorities tightening the immigration rules.

"Dhalla's TV commercials and campaigns promised voters that they could bring their aged parents from India to Canada within four years, instead of the 13 years period, that the Conservative government was planning to impose. She also summoned the help of an Akali politician from Punjab to canvass for her, but eventually, the Liberal incumbent lost to Parm Gill," said a radio commentator, requesting annonymity.

Punjabi community has now reached a stage of political maturity where the community leaders were telling newspapers that they would rather have MPs who looked after the community's interests, rather than go in for turbaned ones. Gurdwaras in Brampton West candidly told Sikh voters to vote for Andrew Kania, a 'gora' Liberal incumbent, who had opposed Kamal Nath's visit to Canada for his alleged role in 1984 riots.