The municipal elections are held to elect a mayor, city councillors, and trustees to the English and French public school boards and the English and French Catholic school boards in Ottawa. In these elections, incumbents and council hopefuls don’t represent provincial or national political parties.
Paramjit Singh, a police officer with the Ottawa Police Service of Indian Canadian and Punjabi origin is in the race to become the next mayor of Ottawa. He is among 10 candidates running for the top post. Born and raised in Montreal, in the neighbouring province of Quebec, he moved to the capital region in 2000 and is fluent in English, French and Punjabi. Singh’s campaign highlights his multicultural upbringing and his 19-year career in the police service, which has shaped his conviction of putting the community first.
Bina Shah, whose parents immigrated to Canada from Kenya in the early 1960s, is running as a candidate for city councillor from the ward of Kanata South.
“Becoming a councillor and entering into politics at the municipal level is a great starting point to help people and solve problems. Most people’s daily lives are affected by things like housing, transit, waste, snow removal, parks and libraries – and I understand and relate to those very personal issues. Ottawa is the capital city of Canada and there has never been a female person of colour at the city council table. I feel this is a great opportunity to expand our council and bring a new, relevant point of view to city politics and the people of Ottawa. I want to be part of this wave of change,” Shah, who has lived in Ottawa since the early 80s, told the Times of India.
After graduation from Carleton University, she pursued further studies at the University of Toronto and has worked in the education sector for over two decades. Shah believes that the Indian Canadian community needs more representation in order to emerge as leaders.
Her political role models are Canada’s New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh who, she feels, has presented a strong opposition to hold the Liberal minority government accountable and Anita Anand, minister of national defence of Canada, who represents the country on the international stage.
As a second-generation Canadian, the main challenge, Shah feels that she has faced, is being raised with a system of values that comes from her parents’ country of origin. “Since I was born and grew up in Canada, I have been immersed in another set of values – the Canadian ones. I have been influenced by my peers, pop culture, employers and politics to name a few,” she says.
In her campaign, she highlights building bridges, as a representative of her community and politician in government, for people who are newcomers to Canada, other second-generation people, and immigrants who have been in Canada for many generations alike.
“As I’ve been knocking on doors, canvassing and chatting with Ottawa residents in the ward I wish to represent, I am learning that many people are disconnected from municipal politics. I have always been a hopeful person and at this time in our existence it is critical for our elected officials to really listen to people. Our representatives need to understand voters’ concerns and their struggles and help them get through the challenges,” she said.
Nagmani Sharma, city council candidate for West Carleton, feels that while the Indian community in Ottawa is very successful with many Indian Canadians running businesses and serving the community as doctors and educators; there is no representation in the city government.
“Indians are respected for being hard working and honest and it is time now for representation in the municipal government. There is growing representation from the other communities in Ottawa; besides there are 17 MPs of Indian origin in the national parliament, but no one in the city council here,” Sharma, who is an active member of the community, said.
He is the secretary of the Durga temple in Ottawa and is connected with several other Indian organisations. He has also worked with several non-profit organisations and charities.
“Ottawa is the capital and it is important for Indian Canadians to have better representation for their voices to be heard. There are over 40 Indian-Canadian organisations and we have several community focussed events and celebrate all the Indian festivals with a lot of enthusiasm,” he said.
The ward that he is contesting from is largely rural and as a part of his campaign he is advocating for farmers and land owners. Another candidate of Indian origin is Jay Chadha, contesting for the city council from Barrhaven West ward.