History Made : Politics Changed Forever In Canada
By Meera Gill
Canada is a country that has learnt from its past and is on its way to make amends. It has and is still recovering from its dark political and social discriminating policies against its Aboriginal people, German speaking Hetaerist and Mennonites, Russian-Speaking Doukhobors, Blacks, Chinese, Japanese and the South Asians. Over the years discrimination has found its way from open in public to having it slipped in offices and public places under the cover of sophisticated language. This change started with the Humans Right act brought about my Mr. Trudeau. Since then minorities have gradually claimed their rightful positions socially, financially and then politically. However, in past ten years under the Conservative government, the country has faced its set back on many fronts but mainly on making racial minorities feel safe.
South Asian Community has run a long and tough race from claiming the right to vote to sending their representative as a Member of Parliament of Canada. These past ten years reversed the course of assimilation, acceptance and celebration of various cultures and religions. To counter this wave, a new political chapter was written in the history of South Asian community that has forever changed how this community will actively take part in the future elections and be a mark in making the Canada they wish to be a part of.
The process started when well before the advance polling, Canadians were collecting information on various candidates running in the elections. They were preparing to elect their Members of Parliament (MPs) for Canada’s 42nd federal election. A group of organizations got together and held the first ever political debate in the history of South Asian community of Canada. The debate was held on Oct 4th, 2015 at the Grand Park Convention hall of Surrey. The purpose of this debate was to involve and educate maximum number of community members in federal elections of 2015. Facebook, twitter, instagram, YouTube, radio and as well as face-to-face communication was used to spread the word. This engagement concluded that higher number of community members participated in the election process and voted the perceived anti minority government out of power.
It all started when members of Our Global Village, a non-profit organization thought that a political debate held in front of the community is the need of time. The community has lived in Canada for over 100 years. From past many years the community has sent their representatives to the Canadian parliament by engaging intensively in the campaigning and getting them elected. However, it had remained debatable if community had selected and sent the very best that they had to offer who could represent the community’s holistic intelligence, integrated culture or concerns. The low number of participation by the South Asian citizens practicing their right to vote was also a major concern. To attend to this huge task, ten other local organizations, which are working for the welfare of the society, were contacted. To hold a political debate, the working group of eleven organizations came up with a name, United Organizations of Canada to represent their unity. Nine running candidates from three Surrey constituencies were invited to take part in three debates held in front of the citizens. Candidates representing three major parties of Canada: Liberal Party, Conservative and New Democratic party, went on well administered debate with one another, one constituency at a time. The event was publicized though Facebook, twitter, radio and print media.
A trending bar of healthy, respectful, value added and responsible political debate was set to make candidates answerable to their actions once elected. The quality of this political debate, matched the standards of that of other debates organized by the mainstream community or main steam media of Canada. In each debate all three candidates answered each question one by one in the given time, which later was followed by a controlled rebuttal by candidates. Altogether, each candidate got maximum of 30 minutes of speaking time to exhibit his/her political knowledge. It came evident that this much time per candidate was effective and efficient to make a good judgment about each candidate’s abilities, strengths as well as any weaknesses.
In the debate, crucial local, national as well as international issues were brought up and addressed in the debate to do justice to the cause. Candidates were put to task to disclose their party position on important matters such as Bill C-24 (approving two tier Canadian citizenship) and Bill C-51 (compromising privacy of citizen to protect the state), Solutions to resolve increasing crime rate in Surrey (47 shooting in last four months), Uber overtaking Taxi industry, Trucking port agreement related issues, Increase in the eligibility age for pension receivers (65 to 67), decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana, contamination of Canadian freshwater (Blue betrayal document), tax breaks given to big corporations and their accountability towards investment in Canada for creating jobs for Canadians, increasing tuition fees, its related debt and impact on credit history of youth, high unemployment in youth, exploitation of foreign workers, family reunification and many more. It is also worth the mention that department of Elections Canada also contributed to the social service and its staff members answered queries of the attendees about the identifications that they must have on them to be able to vote on the day of the election.
Following the debate, video clippings of each question per debate were posted on YouTube, shared on Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media. These videos ended up spreading future possibilities as they attracted thousands of viewers across the world. In this election, these videos helped Canadians to elect their MP. On Oct 19th, 2015, from the three constituencies, citizen elected all Liberal party candidates who replaced two New Democratic Party and one Conservative Party members of parliament from last elections. The video clips, covering individual answers on each question asked did not only help the citizens to make their choice who to vote for but will also serve as a reference point in future as the majority Liberal Party will go on to perform in the next four years. This online accountability of each MP is first of its kind and will build better interactive relationship between them and their constituents.
The eleven progressive organizations under the banner of United Organizations of Canada created history. From here onward, things will only progress forward. There will be no elections held without bringing forward the candidates to an open debate such as the one held on Oct 4th, 2015. Wherever there will be South Asian population, later or sooner, this trend will surely spread well beyond the boundaries of Surrey to other states and countries. In fact, one of the ethnic radio stations (RED FM 93.1) of Surrey followed the trend and held another debate after the advanced polling to offer something similar but at a less intense level, to its listeners. We encourage more groups and institutions, all around the world to carry on this trend to benefit the community et al. With each election, more sophistication to the debate will come and more accountable and approachable will become the elected members.
It is worth noting that the progress of South Asian community and its assimilation with the remaining Canadians have made history during these elections. Canada elected 15 out of 338 of its MPs with a South Asian heritage.
Our Global Village, a non-profit organization is one of many organizations that are working in Canada and across the globe to protect the basic human rights, both socially as well as politically. Next project of this organization is to hold a citywide peace walk to send a strong message against racial and religious discriminating acts taking place in India against its minorities.