Toronto, April 27: Just days before Canadian parliamentary elections on May 2, political leaders are wooing Indo-Canadians by promising less waiting time for immigration and more student’s visas from India.
Speaking at a roundtable organized by the Canada-India Foundation (CIF) here, top leaders of the opposition Liberal Party promised a comprehensive relationship with India. They said their party government will take the bilateral ties beyond trade to increase immigration and tourism from India and foster deeper education and research cooperation.
Top Liberal Party leader and Toronto MP Bob Rae reminded Indo-Canadians the role played by his party leader and former Prime Minister Paul Martin in ushering in G20 to include India and other developing economies for wider consultation on global economic issues.
He said Canada should focus on its core competencies in engaging with India and leverage its expertise to continue to push for stronger nuclear ties with India.
Suggesting more visas for Indian students to study in Canada, John McCallum, MP from the Toronto suburb of Markham-Unionville, said Australia was “eating Canada’s lunch” in attracting Indian students and the federal government must usher in friendlier policies on visa and work.
Canada currently gets about 3,500 Indian students compared to over 40,000 going to Australia each year.
Rob Oliphant, MP from the Toronto constituency of Don Valley West, said his party had identified Gujarat as a great business destination 20 years ago. He said he was happy that the current Canadian government has recognized the importance of Gujarat by being a partner country at this year’s Vibrant Gujarat Summit.
Since Canada still doesn’t have any official presence in Gujarat, he favoured a full consular office in the state.
Oliphant promised that his party government would reduce wait times for the family class immigration category from 11-13 years now to five to six years. He also said his party government would be more careful in addresses sensitive issues like the visit of union minister Kamal Nath here last year which led to protests by Sikh groups for his alleged involvement in the 1984 riots.
Bengali-origin Rana Sarkar, who is contesting for parliament for the first time from the Toronto constituency of Scarborough Rouge River, said that based on past history, his Liberal Party has “the DNA for dealing with India and now there is need for India 2.0 engagement strategy.”
Maria Minna, MP from the Toronto constituency of Beaches-East York, emphasized the need for serious engagement of the Indian Diaspora for deepening Canada-India relations.
Canada-India Foundation leaders Aditya Jha and Ramesh Chotai, said the Indian Diaspora was pleased that the Liberal Party recognizes its role in shaping Canadian policies.
Representatives of the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, IIT Alumni of Canada and the Canadian Museum of Hindu Civilization also quizzed Canadian politicians about India. By Gurmukh Singh