Indo-Canadians are one of BC's largest and most influential immigrant groups. We have had an Indo-Canadian premier, union leaders, and even the husband of one of BC's biggest rock stars.
Like Chinese-Canadians who have come from a diversity of geographical origins such as South African, Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Guyana, Malaysia, Singapore, Brazil, The United States and Europe, the Vancouver Sun's 100 influential Indo-Canadians count their geographical origins as being from India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Kenya, Uganda, Fiji, Trinidad, Tanzania, England, Sri Lanka and Barhrain.
I am pleased to know many of the people listed. Recently I was re-aquainted with MLA Harry Bains (whom I described as very inspiring) at the CUPE BC “workers of colour” conference where I also met MLA Raj Chouhan and UBC professor Sunera Thobani. Also at the conference was Moe Sihota and the mother of basketball star Pasha Bains. Ujjal Dosanjh has been a supporter of the Chinese head tax redress campaign both as BC premier and as federal MP. Both he and his wife Raminder Dosanjh are incredible movers in the community, and I was pleased to meet them when we met them asking for support of the Joy Kogawa House campaign.
I first met Manpreet Grewal, when we were both invited to give a welcoming gift to CBC Radio's Shelagh Rogers, when the show “Sounds Like Canada” moved to Vancouver from Toronto. Charan Gill, I met way back around 1993 – he is always passionate about multiculturalism and fighting racism. Ian Hannomansing used to live in my grandmother's West End apartment and started at CBC TV, when my cousin Joni Mar was still a TV news reporter alongside him back in the late 1980's. I've also met Belle Puri at CBC, and Priya Ramu (who isn't listed). I know Sandu Binning from many arts events such as Word on the Street and Asian Heritage Month. At other community events I have met Wally Oppal and Aziz Khaki. My SFU sports psychology prof worked with and spoke about Emanuel Sandhu, so I felt like I knew him.
But the person I probably know best is Harsha Walia, one of the organizational leaders of No
One is Illegal. I am always amazed by the energy and friendly smile of
Harsha who always sends me her event emails (which I should post more
of). You just know more great things are going to happen as this young activist keeps widening her field of influence.
On Oct 21st 2006, the Vancouver Sun published a controversial list of 100 influential Chinese-Canadians. Now 17 months later, on March 29, 2008 the Sun takes a look at 100 influential Indo-Canadians.
While the Vancouver Sun did an admirable job of stating that Chinese have been a part of BC since it's inception in 1958, and listing the achievements Chinese Canadians have made while also acknowledging the racist challenges they also had to face, there were problems with the list. These problems were identified by bloggers such as myself, Chinese in Vancouver, and the Ugly Chinese Canadian.
The list of 100 influential Chinese-Canadians was considered controversial because the Canadianess of some of these Chinese individuals came into question. For instance, the editor of the World Journal had only been in Canada for one year. He was of Chinese ancestry, but was he Canadian? The Sun explained their methodology in their article. But many people in the community still had to shake their heads at the many amazingly influential Chinese Canadians that were left off the list such as Olympic gold medalist Lori Fung, architect Joe Wai and cultural engineer Jim Wong-Chu who really laid the ground work for Asian Heritage Month, Asian Canadian literature through the Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop and Ricepaper Magazine. Here is my reply to the Vancouver Sun's 100 Chinese Canadians.
At my first glances of the 100 Indo-Canadian list, it appears that the Vancouver Sun took our constructive criticisms to task. There is nobody listed as only having spent 1 year in Canada such as World Journal editor Han Shang Ping, or 5 years such as Weihong Song or 7 years for Sing Tao editor Victor Leung Mau Ho The shortest time spent in Canada is artist Janail Singh's 8 years, ignoring the 6 years listed for Karimah Es Sabar because her bio also states she first came to Canada in 1988. And nobody on the Indo-Canadian list appears to be 16 years old such as the listed golfer Eugene Wong. Maybe these are small points, but the Vancouver Sun left off actor Kristin Kreuk, who plays lead actor Lana Lang on the hit TV series Smallville and whom I would argue has incredible influence not only as a covergirl for Neutragena skin care commercials, but especially as Superboy's girlfriend.
Who was born in Canada on the two lists? 25 Canadian-born-Chinese, and 18 Canadian-born-Indians.
The Vancouver Sun later added an addtional 12 names. 3 names are very influential in Chinese-Canadian history and culture but are not or Chinese origin: Ed Wickberg, Colleen McGuinness and Graham Johnson (whom I have all known for many years). Of the 9 Chinese Canadians added, including athlete Lori Fung, 2 were born in Canada.
Do these observations mean anything in comparison?
Statistics can mean whatever the presenter wants, depending how they are organized. When the Sun's initial list of 100 influential Chinese-Canadians came out, we argued that the Sun was trying to balance between the Canadian born, new immigrants, old immigrants, and Chinese language communities. Does it make a difference if 26 Indo-Canadians have “Western” first names compared to 83 Chinese-Canadians? Did Chinese-Canadians feel it was more important to “change” their names in order to fit in, or were they given both Chinese names and Western names? Does it matter? Does it influence how they as individuals or as a community are perceived?
There are lots of ways to read into such lists, but the most important thing is that the Vancouver Sun is recognizing the important legacy that Indo-Candians have contributed to BC both as pioneers and as new immigrants. As a community they have given us political heroes, sports heroes, community heroes and musical heroes. And they are ALL Canadians, for ALL Canadians to share, acknowledge and respect.
Ah… but who would I add to the list? Who do I think is missing? That's an interesting question!
The Georgia Straight wrote: