CIVIC VOTE: 2007
A BIG DAY FOR THE SOUTH ASIAN’S
On Monday night, October 15, Amarjeet Sohi in Edmonton and
Yadvinder Minhas in Grande Prairie were the first two South Asian’s
to win seats in the two city councils in Alberta, Canada.
Edmonton; October 15: Known to be a man of ideas, Amarjeet Sohi along with Yadvinder Minhas from Grande Prairie became the first South Asian’s to win seats in the two city councils in Alberta. It was an other big day for the South Asian’s in the province of Alberta. Prior to them, as the information goes, another South Asian Councilor Tom Gill was elected councilor to the city council in Surrey, B.C, in November 2005 Civic election.
During the same week, on Oct 20, an Indian immigrant Piyush “Bobby” Jindal, 36, easily defeating 11 opponents became the first non-white Governor of the US state of Lousiana. Back in Punjab, India, Jindal’s parents moved from Khanpura village to USA, forty years ago.
A few years ago, in 1993, it was here in Alberta that Harrinder Sohal, breaking political ground, was elected MLA, Conservative, from Calgary. Then, a former professor at the U of A, Dr. Raj Pannu (NDP, from Edmonton), Shiraz Shariff (Conservative, from Calgary), and Bharat Agnihotri (Liberal, from Edmonton) were elected MLA’s to the Alberta Legislature.
Amarjeet Sohi, an Indo-Canadian , was elected in the Southeast Ward 6 along with incumbent Dave Thiele, who comfortably won back his council seat for the fourth time. Both of them being socialists by creed, in a way, it was a clean sweep of the left, possibly predicting a change in the future electoral trends in Edmonton south .
Amarjeet Sohi came from behind in the tightest of races to take the ward’s second seat, vacated by retiring Coun. Terry Cavanaugh. He was in a close race with Chinwe Okelu, another equally popular ethnic candidate, beating him out for the second spot by only 247 votes. His success provided one of the biggest thrills in what was otherwise a lacklustre municipal
election in Edmonton Monday night.
Sohi, 43, came to Canada from India in 1981 and has worked as an Edmonton
Transit bus driver since 1998. He has also worked hard at politics following his defeat in the 2004 council race, including knocking on thousands of doors since last spring. He has been working ever since the last election to raise his presence in the community.
Joined at the community hall by his wife and 13-year-old daughter, Sohi said his first priority was to connect with other councilors and start building relationships with them. Sohi believes that Council should support all citizens, reflect the diversity of our multicultural City, and serve the needs of families and children. “Edmonton is a great City and I want to participate in making it better. I want to see an end to violence,
opportunities for youth at risk, and a stronger community. I will endeavor to and deliver strong leadership for all Edmonton’s citizens. To that end, I will continue to work towards responsible growth and development that creates prosperity, jobs and a strong flourishing community,” said Sohi, surrounded by jubilant supporters who burst spontaneously into chants of “Sohi! Sohi!”
Today, we earnestly need the young and second-generation Canadians, of the likes of Amarjeet Sohi, to join the political process. Because during the last decade, besides earning a few achievements in the political arena, we are also being blamed for polluting the current electorate system. First of all, to get into the Legislature or the Parliament, by hook or by crook, we easily parachute to any corner of the city/province or the country, possibly with no visible grass-roots support. It is here that starts the misuse of the system, first, by signing bulk of instant memberships, and then paying the membership fees from our own pockets. In this game, we mostly seek the help of the people of our own cast and creed – popularly known as Apna man factor. Thus, communalizes the secular norms of a democratic- system, which has now got into a can of worms.
Hope, up-coming new faces bring- in a different type of politics based on principles and party-platforms. Sohi has won, as partly he looked in- tune with the main stream Canadian’s. For the healthy growth of democratic institutions, one’s assimilation in the mainstream Canadians and participation in socio-political issues of this land is very necessary.
It took Indo-Canadians a century to arrive on Canada’s political scene. It was in the province of British Columbia in Canada that Indo-Canadians made a dent in the political scenario in the year 1986 when they sent Moe Sihota to the state legislature as an elected MLA on the New Democratic Party ticket. The young lawyer also became the first Indo-Canadian person to become a Minister. Their debut in federal politics was made in 1993, when Herb Dhaliwal was elected as a Liberal in Vancouver South and became a parliamentary secretary. Dhaliwal was also appointed Federal Minister. Then, Ujjal Dosanjh, NDP, created a history by earning a Premier’s job on Canada’s soil, in the province of British Columbia.
Though, afterwards, he crossed the floor and became a minister in the cabinet of Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin. Besides politics, today, they are a vibrant and vital part of particularly Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton occupying prominent positions in academia, business, legal, medical and form a key component of the labor force.
Thus, Indo-Canadian’s have finally arrived on Canada’s political scene. Today they are getting voter support to move on to the city council, provincial and federal stage. At present, in the Parliament their number stands at ten, sixteen of their MLA’s have been successful in getting into the Provincial Assemblies, while few have now grabbed places in the city councils. They are a part of the decision-making process of the future of this country, which every immigrant community across the globe should emulate.