Role of Punjabis
in Canadian Elections
Surrey, Vancouver, Sep. 30., 2008
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
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.