Harinder Malhi (extreme right) takes oath as the minister of the status of women. Pic Courtesy Twitter/Mike Crawley
Two Indian-origin women lawmakers, including a Sikh, have been inducted into the Cabinet of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, in an apparent move to woo the community ahead of a major provincial election. The Indian-origin ministers inducted are — Harinder Malhi and Indira Naidoo-Harris.
The reshuffle was claimed by Premier Wynne as an effort “to make sure that we have that team that’s going to carry us into the election and beyond.” “I think it is important to have diversity — gender and regional and background diversity — at the cabinet table and so that has been part of the consideration as we go into this cabinet shuffle,” she said.
Wynne appointed 38-year-old Malhi, a Liberal Member of Provincial Parliament for Brampton-Springdale, as the Minister of the Status of Women. Malhi is the daughter of Canada’s first Sikh MP Gurbax Singh Malhi.
A motion moved by Malhi in last April in the Legislative assembly of Ontario was passed by the House extending the official recognition to the 1984 riots as Sikh “genocide” in India, a move strongly rejected by New Delhi as “misguided”. Harris, another Indian-origin Member of Provincial Parliament for Halton, was promoted to Education Minister. She will remain Minister Responsible for Early Years and Child Care. “The knowledge and skills they bring to these roles will be crucial as we continue our work to create more fairness and opportunity for the people of Ontario,” the premier was quoted as saying by The Star newspaper.
With less than five months for a major provincial election, Wynne’s decision is being seen as an apparent pre-emptive move to quell the rising popularity of the New Democratic Party led by a Sikh. Malhi, it is believed, can help retain Sikhs votes which may drift to the New Democratic Party (NDP) which has elected Jagmeet Singh as its national leader. By winning the NDP federal party leadership, Jagmeet Singh has positioned himself for a battle in which the role of Sikhs across Canada is crucial. Canada is home to over 1.2 million Persons of Indian Origin (PIO). Today almost 90 per cent of the community lives in metropolitan areas in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and other major cities like Ottawa, Calgary, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Waterloo and Halifax.
Greater Toronto Area (GTA) has the largest Indian community estimated at around 650,000 followed by Vancouver at around 300,000. It is estimated that two-thirds of Indo-Canadians are Punjabi speaking. Malhi represents the Punjabi-dominated constituency of Brampton-Springdale in the Ontario assembly.