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Role of Punjabis in Canadian Elections

Surrey, Vancouver, Sep. 30., 2008
Balwant Sanghera
President, Punjabi Language Education Association

t is election season in British Columbia. The federal election campaign for the third election on October 14, in less than five years, is already in full swing.

Our print and electronic media is fully saturated with campaign ads, party platforms, political rhetoric and everything in between. The federal election will hardly be over when the municipal election campaign will kick into high gear. The municipal vote will be barely over on November 15, when BC will start gearing up for the provincial election on May12, 2009.Thus, within seven months, British Columbians would go through three election campaigns. This must make BC a candidate for the Guinness Book of World Records.
Over the years, Canada has become a truly multicultural and multilingual country. Members belonging to more than 200 different communities call it their home. This cultural mosaic contains the South Asian community, which according to the 2006 census figures, is the largest ethnic community in Canada now. A large segment of this community’s population is not well versed in English. Also, a majority of the South Asian community in Canada, is Punjabi. Thus, it may be greatly beneficial to the candidates to reach out to these voters in their own language-Punjabi.

Such an approach should be very valuable in various communities in Metro Vancouver and certain areas in the interior.

Elections are an extremely important part of the democratic process. As such, reaching out to voters not only in English but also in their native language like Punjabi is bound to enhance their participation.

In this manner, the candidates at all levels are able to convey their messages to a large yet untapped vote bank. At the same time, the non-English speaking Punjabi voters would feel more empowered and better motivated to participate in the election process with renewed confidence.

In this context,Surrey and Abbotsford are just a few of the examples where Punjabi is the second most spoken language. In addition to Metro Vancouver, the Punjabi community has also been flourishing in a number of other communities and provinces. Ontario, for example, has one of the largest Punjabi speaking community in Canada-Brampton. Similarly, there are many other, albeit smaller, units of the Punjabi community. All of them are a rich resource for politicians to reach. The best way, of course to do it is through their own language, Punjabi.

On behalf of the Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA), I would like to encourage candidates in areas with large number of Punjabi speakers, to give serious consideration to also have their election signs and literature in Punjabi. It is bound to give the candidate and his/her party much wider exposure. At the same time, the Punjabi speaking voter will become better informed about the candidate’s platform. Thus, it is a win-win situation for the candidate and the voter. This will be a great way of not only recognizing and appreciating Canada’s cultural and linguistic diversity but also a tribute to it.







Balwant Sanghera

Balwant Sanghera
President, Punjabi Language Education Association . He is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist in British Columbia ,Canada.