VANCOUVER: Amrik Virk, a former inspector with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) who was elected to the British Columbia assembly in the last month’s election, was appointed minister for advanced education by Premier Christy Clark on Friday.
Virk is one of the three Indo-Canadian MLAs in the 85-member assembly in British Columbia. But he is the only one from the ruling Liberal Party which returned to power in the May 14 elections.
Virk, who was born in India, came to Canada when he was five. He joined the RCMP in 1987 after completing his BA degree from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.
Since virtually every ministry in British Columbia province since the early 1990s had had an Indo-Canadian minister, the appointment of Virk as a minister was a foregone conclusion as the Indo-Canadian community makes up almost 7-8 percent of British Columbia’s population of 4.4 million.
With his appointment as a cabinet minister, Virk joins the elite list of Indo-Canadians who went on to become ministers in British Columbia.
Moe (Munmohan Singh) Sihota was the first Indo-Canadian to become an MLA in Canada when he elected to the British Columbia assembly in 1986. In 1991, he became the first Indo-Canadian minister in Canada when he was given charge of constitutional affairs by then British Columbia premier Michael Harcourt.
In 1991, two other Indo-Canadians – Harry Lali and Ujjal Dosanjh – were also elected as MLAs in British Columbia. And later Dosanjh became the second Indo-Canadian to be appointed minister in 1995. He went on to hold various portfolios, including that of the attorney general till his election as Premier of British Columbia in Feb 2000. Fellow MLA Harry Lali became the third Indo-Canadian minister when he was given charge of transportation and highways by Premier Glen Clark in 1998.
After the defeat of Ujjal Dosanjh and his New Democratic Party in 2001, the new ruling Liberal Party appointed Walli Oppal, a judge of the British Columbia Supreme Court, as the new attorney general in 2005. After his defeat in 2009, the ruling Liberal Party roped in former West Vancouver Police chief Kash Heed, an Indo-Canadian, and made him minister for public safety and solicitor general. But he had to quit over a poll campaign controversy in 2010.
With his appointment as the cabinet minister on Friday, Amrik Virk becomes the sixth Indo-Canadian to hold a ministerial job in British Columbia.
Interestingly, Manmeet Bhullar of Alberta is the only other Indo-Canadian who currently holds a ministerial position in any province in Canada, though there are two Indo-Canadians – Bal Gosal and Tim Uppal – who are ministers of state in the Canadian cabinet.
Harinder Takhar, the first Indo-Canadian to hold a ministerial position in Ontario province from 2003-2013, resigned last month citing health reasons.