BY RATTAN MALL
(Photo: Tim Uppal arrives for the swearing-in ceremony with wife Kiran on Monday.
TIM Uppal was already reaching out to Canadians in his new role as the Minister of State for Multiculturalism in Winnipeg when I spoke to him on Wednesday. And he will be in Vancouver this weekend, attending Surrey’s Fusion Festival and other engagements.
Uppal was born in New Westminster and his family moved to Edmonton when he was very young. He’s been the MP for Edmonton-Sherwood Park since 2008.
When I asked Uppal how he felt multiculturalism had changed over the past decades, he noted that originally it was about telling the communities: ‘Go celebrate your culture.’ But he felt that multiculturalism should be about other Canadians also experiencing those cultures.
He then spoke of his own experience: “My parents came from Punjab and I grew up, I guess, the ideally multicultural way because on a Saturday afternoon, we went and learned Bhangra, but on Sunday we’d go play ice hockey. So that’s what it means to be a Canadian now that you do both. You are very proud of your heritage but you are still very much Canadian.”
He pointed out that he played football all through his high school years and then in university, he started playing kabaddi and did so for 12 years.
He added: “Only in Canada, I think, we’d be able to do both of those things.”
So I couldn’t help but ask him if he was going to perform Bhangra at the Surrey Fusion Festival. He laughed out loud and said: “I’ll be there to cheer them on!”
UPPAL, who was Minister of State for Democratic Reform before the Cabinet shuffle on Monday, told me that he was “very excited” about his new role and was “very pleased that the Prime Minister has asked me to take this on and work with Minister Jason Kenney.”
Kenney, who is now Minister of Employment and Social Development, will continue to play the primary role in the Multiculturalism Ministry. Former diplomat Chris Alexander is the new Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. When I asked Uppal what his message to the South Asian community was, he replied: “I think it’s this that every community in Canada – cultural community – needs to be assured that their voice is going to be heard at the Cabinet table, in government. … [I’ll be]making sure that the Prime Minister and other ministers like Jason Kenney and the new immigration minister hear their concern, their voices, and I will be travelling across the country, meeting with people, and I will make sure that their voice is heard. That is going to be part of my role.”
He added: “The other part is also making sure that as Multiculturalism Minister that all of us as Canadians, whether it’s new Canadians or people who have been in Canada for generations, learn more about each other and are able to communicate with each other, are able to live under the same laws, the same shared values.”
UPPAL told me that things are going very well for the Conservatives when I asked him how he felt about his party’s prospects at this stage as it was facing some challenges.
He said that when they go across Canada asking people what their number one concern is, “it continues to be the economy.” And he added that the Conservatives since they came to power have “created over a million net new jobs since the worst part of the recession and that’s the strongest job record of all G7 countries.”
He said Canada was doing very well even though the economic situation in Europe is not that great and things in the U.S. have not fully recovered. “So here in Canada, we are doing relatively well,” he noted.
Uppal added: “So I think based on that, Canadians really see that this government is focussed on the economy and we will continue to make sure that there’s long term prosperity for Canadians.”