By Balwant Sanghera
VANCOUVER: The presidential election campaign currently under way in the United States has given an added significance to Americans of Indian origin there. Indian Americans have come a long way since the election of Dalip Singh Saund as the first Asian Congressman some fifty years ago.
Today, two of America’s governors – Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley – are of Indian origin. Not only that, people like Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Deepak Chopra are considered to be some of the most influential people in the States. Furthermore, American Indians are occupying positions of power everywhere. Astronauts like Kalpana Chopra and Sunita Williams have done so with NASA.
Politically, American Indians are working in prominent positions in both the Obama and Romney campaigns. They are making their presence felt in both the Democratic and Republican parties. Indian Americans have now become a force to reckon with in the United States. And the story is the same in Canada.
The Indo-Canadian community has come a long way since its arrival in Canada more than 125 years ago. Our pioneers, through hard work, resilience and perseverance overcame all of the odds stacked against them. It is due to their determination and sacrifices that our community has become a formidable force in this country.
Indo-Canadians now are playing a dominant role in every field. Be it politics, business, education,sports, media or technology, members of our community are in the forefront.
Take politics, for example. Since the election of Moe Sihota to the BC Legislative Assembly in 1986, the first Indo-Canadian elected to a provincial legislature in Canada, Indo-Canadians have made big strides in the political arena. Since then, members of our community have been elected to not only various provincial legislatures but also to the Canadian parliament. They have gone on to occupy prominent positions of the premier and cabinet members. As a matter of fact, now it is difficult to imagine any major political party in which Indo-Canadians are not in the forefront. Even at the municipal level, there are a large number of Indo-Canadians in various positions .
Similar is the case in other fields. Our community has some of the most influential people in business, education, media, technology, journalism and sports. Take for example, the media.
Two of Canada’s major urban centres – Metro Vancouver and Greater Toronto Area (GTA) – have some of the most influential electronic and print Indo-Canadian media. Very well respected Indo-Canadian media personalities are making an extremely beneficial contribution to this country not only in the ethnic media but also in the mainstream. The importance and role of Indo-Canadians was evident when one of Vancouver’s major dailies – The Province – started a news website –www.vancouverdesi.com – to cater to the Indo-Canadian community.
This website provides an excellent insight into the Indo-Canadian community in the Canadian context. Similar is the case in various other fields.
In addition to their hard work, people of Indian heritage are also well known around the globe for their generosity. Whenever a calamity strikes in any corner of the world, Indo-Canadians are there not only with large hearts but also with open wallets. Be it the earthquake in China, Pakistan or Haiti, this community was there to help the needy. Our local radio stations and places of worship raised millions of dollars within hours to help those in need. Not only that, even at the local level, whether it is the Children’s Hospital, the Surrey Memorial Hospital or any other worthwhile cause, our community is there again raising millions.
It goes without saying that wherever the people of Indian origin have gone, they have made a name for themselves with their hard work and resilience. Thriving Indian communities around the globe are a great symbol and tribute to their pioneering spirit. It is a matter of great pride for us all.
(A former school psychologist, Balwant Sanghera is a Richmond-based community activist who has been honoured with the Order of British Columbia and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for his social services)