For votes politicians will go that extra mile

Pradip Rodrigues

I was talking to a South Asian senior who didn’t approve of the way Canadian politicians ingratiate themselves with immigrant voters. He admits cringing when he saw them dressing up in bosstraditional costumes and posing for pictures with the ‘locals’. It is one thing when our Prime Minister or other ministers visit other nation as visiting dignitaries, then its okay for them to don the tribal headgear, listens to them sing and even join them in a dance, but when they do sort of tribal dances here with new Canadians it  came across as highly contrived and downright distasteful,” this was his opinion. He gave two examples, one was of PM Harper serving Langar at a GTA Gurdwara and the other was of another politicians visiting a mosque. In a mature democracy there should be absolutely no need for a politician to visit a place of worship or dress in costumes or bend backwards to show their support for all things ethnic, it actually is bad for multiculturalism.

Equal opportunities, not special treatment

There are many South Asians who think just like him including this reporter. I am not sure if we belong in the majority or a minority, but here’s how I think. I would like our politicians to treat us like a mainstream Canadian. My concerns have to do with things happening within our borders, like creating more jobs and opportunities, improving education and making it more affordable. I am not particularly concerned about immigration, sponsorship of more seniors or Canada’s foreign policy with regard to India. The senior South Asian was more concerned with ensuring that his grandchildren had an equal chance to succeed like he did when he came to Canada 35 years ago.

Ethnic vote banks receive most attention

Today the two major ethnic groups constitute major vote banks are South Asians and Chinese so the leaders of all political parties spend a disproportionate amount of time in these immigrant and vote-rich ridings. They pander or cultivate these groups hoping to win their votes. Not so long ago, I was reading a piece talking about Minister for Defence and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney’s hard campaigning in the GTA over a weekend, I scrolled down to the comments and the one that stood out said: “Minister Kenney, visit us White folks in rural Ontario sometime.”
Make no mistake, many Canadians who aren’t of South Asian or Chinese origin feel politically ignored, marginalized even and that seething anger could one day crystallize into a backlash against immigrants.
Off the record I posed this question to an MPP of South Asian descent and the politician agreed with me one hundred percent. The politician was happy to see political leaders lavish their attention on South Asian immigrants in particular but worried about a potential backlash. “Even in India, for years political parties won elections by using minorities as vote banks. The majority (Hindus) felt ignored but all that has changed with Indian PM Modi, who is seen as speaking up for Hindus,” said the politician who predicted that sometime in the future, such a leader could emerge right here in Canada who’d articulate the feelings of the ignored majority.

Pandering to minorities leads to backlash

In India, meat and specifically beef bans across many regions are gaining momentum and while there won’t be pogroms against Muslims and Christians anytime soon, there is an undeniable feeling that they’ve been put on notice.
Whether or not Republican contender Donald Trump will eventually become America’s next President isn’t the point, what is undeniable is that his poll rating has much to do with his blunt honesty. He has stuck to his position on illegal immigration and has said things that most other politicians would think about but never say out loud. He has refused to pander to Hispanics unlike every other politician in the Democratic and Republican parties.
Taking Caucasian and other immigrant groups with deep roots in Canada for granted is not only unfair but dangerous as well. It can be argued that established Canadians don’t need to be reassured that they belong. New Canadians do. But wait a minute, do they?
I really do believe that educated and more sophisticated South Asian immigrants do not require to be spoken to like they were handicapped in any way. Unfortunately, the so-called community leaders and individuals active in politics happen to be first-generation immigrants who practice the only form of politics they are familiar with- Indian politics where they expect every minister to fawn on them, pose with them, sing and dance to their tune literally and figuratively.

Pradip Rodrigues started out as a journalist at Society magazine, part of the Magna Group in Mumbai. He wrote extensively on a variety of subjects. He later moved to the Times of India where he was instrumental in starting the now defunct E-times, a television magazine. He conceptualized Bombay Times and became its first assistant editor where he handled features and page three. Since coming to Canada in 2000, he has freelanced for newspapers and magazines in India and written autobiographies for seniors.

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