Dec 18, 2020
By Rupa Subramanya
Recently, a brand of politics fuelled by identity-driven special interests has taken hold in Canada. Such politics is not entirely new, given the country’s founding premise as an accommodation between the British and the French. However, following successive waves of migration from different parts of the world, each of which creates a potential identity-driven diaspora group to be exploited for electoral advantage, politicians have really begun to capitalize. The distortion is so pervasive that now even important foreign-policy positions are seen largely through the lens of parochial domestic politics.
This unfortunate turn was recently on view when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weighed in on the ongoing farmer protests against the Indian government’s long overdue and much-needed liberalizing reforms in the agriculture sector. The small number of farmers protesting in India are largely drawn from the Sikh community in Punjab. Trudeau pitched his remarks to the Sikh-Canadian diaspora, who represent a rich catchment of seats for the Liberals. While Sikh-Canadians amount to only about one per cent of Canada’s population, they are heavily concentrated in key ridings in the Toronto and Vancouver areas, and thus are more politically consequential than their numbers suggest.
The Liberals are not the only political party that plays this game, but they have taken it to a dangerous new level.