“Politics is an opportunity to do Seva”

Canadian MP Ruby Dhalla (constituency Brampton-Springdale) was in India during January, attending a series of NRI events across the country. Last year, she was the recipient of the 1st INDIA EMPIRE NRI Award for Political Leadership from Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi. She spoke on her visit, her plans for 2011 and beyond
What are you taking back to Toronto from this PBD?
PBD 2011 in a way has really been inspirational. You take a look at the number of NRIs that attended, the caliber of the NRIs that attended, the level of success and achievement among them, for instance the Governor General of Indian Origin from New Zealand, a British Minister of Indian Origin, and you see so much can be done with the caliber of people who are there of Indian origin. There is a great opportunity out there for everyone. I chaired a session on networking with young overseas Indians, and I see that the possibilities that lie before them are unlimited and the opportunities are endless. They have as much of a chance to be a part of India’s history through such events as the PBD, as they have of being a real part of India’s future.


Dhalla works passionately for the young

How do you plan to leverage the gains from PBD 2011 for the coming PBD in Toronto in June 2011?
I am indeed very glad that the next PBD will be in Toronto. This is the year of India in Canada. We have great pride in the achievements of the Indian community in Canada that numbers about 1.3 million. There are tremendous success stories in healthcare, business, real estate, politics. One of the new emergency wards of a leading hospital has been named after Guru Nanak Dev Ji which shows how the Indian community is valued, and the kind of important role Indians are playing in Canada. It is a tribute to the hard work they are putting in. Punjabi is the 4th most spoken language in Canada. The PBD in Toronto will be an opportunity for the Indian diaspora to bring up real issues, identify the challenges and barriers that they face and look for ways to tackle them.

Your views on the Komagata Maru issue and on the Kolkata Memorial issue…
Another bill is being brought in Canadian Parliament that looks at an apology from the Government on the subject of Komagata Maru. One apology had been issued but it was at a cultural event, and we want the apology to be made official inside Parliament. Some people do ask why we are raising an issue that is 90 years old. My answer is that Canada has been a country of equal opportunity, a nation of great acceptance and tolerance, and a great example to the world. When you see Canada, you see the rest of the world. So Canada needs to atone for a mistake it committed. The apology is very important to thousands of Indian migrants who risked difficult voyages to reach Canada in search of a better life. It is important for young people to know the challenges and the sacrifices our mothers have faced. You need to know your history. That is why it is important to have memorials, such as the one in Kolkata.

What are the main focus areas for you?
I always say that politics is an opportunity to do Seva. I have a passion for people, there are many out there that are struggling, many that are voiceless that need a voice. As a young Member of Parliament I am really concerned with issues of youth, those that are victims of drugs, low self esteem, violence. I bring together young people from different schools and try to work on the challenges that some of them face at home. One of the other areas is to ensure that there are enough job opportunities out there. After the global recession, Canada too faced some job cuts, though the situation may not have been as severe as in some other parts of the world. Workers were laid off. I believe that it is incredibly important to ensure that there is security of job, there is enough to fill the fridge, the medicine cabinet, the gas tank. That leads to a better community and a safer world.

You were born in Canada, but you keep visiting Punjab. Please explain this connect with your roots…
Canada is our home, I am proud to be Canadian. India is where my roots are. I am a passionate supporter of young people and I believe that it is important to educate them, especially the girls. We are connecting schools in Punjab to schools in my constituency through a mentorship programme. Ultimately, it is an investment for the future of our city and our country.

February 2011

click here to enlarge

 >> Cover Story
 >> From the Editor