Two Sikhs become ministers in Canada

Toronto: Two Sikhs were named to the new Canadian cabinet announced.

In a major surprise for the million-strong Indo-Canadian community, first-time MP Bal Gosal from the Toronto constituency of Bramalea-Gore-Malton was made minister of state for sport by Prime Minister Stephen Harper whose Conservative Party was returned to power with a majority in the May 2 elections.

A Sikh from Mukundpur village near Jalandhar, 50-year-old Gosal, who is an insurance broker by profession, had defeated Sikh stalwart and six-time MP Gurbax Malhi. Malhi himself had created history in 1993 by becoming the first Sikh turbaned MP in the western world.

Tim Uppal, a 37-year-old Canadian-born turbaned Sikh from Edmonton, was also made minister of state for democratic reform. This is Uppal’s second term in the Canadian parliament.

However, what shocked many in the Indo-Canadian community was the omission of senior-most MP Deepak Obhrai from the ministry. A six-time MP from Calgary, Obhrai was a parliamentary secretary in the outgoing ministry. Many community leaders, who had pushed his name for a Cabinet berth, were disappointed with his omission.

“I have nothing to say and will talk to you later,” Obhrai said when asked about his exclusion from the cabinet.

“A cabinet berth for Obhrai looks impossible now as all 39 ministerial berths are full. Hopefully, they will accommodate him in some diplomatic position,” former Canada-India Business Council president Kam Rathee said.
“I think the PM has done a smart job by including two Indians in Cabinet for the first time – one MP from eastern Canada (Bal Gosal) and one from western Canada (Tim Uppal). But Obhrai deserved a berth for his work to promote Canada-Indian ties,” said Gujarati business Hemant Shah.

Indeed, it is the first time that there will be two Indian faces in the Canadian cabinet. Former health minister Ujjal Dosanjh of the Liberal Party was the last Indian face in the Canadian Cabinet from 2004 to 2006.

In the new cabinet, John Baird will be Canada’s next foreign minister. Jason Kenney retains his immigration portfolio.

In the 308-member parliament, there are nine MPs of Indian origin. By Gurmukh Singh