Article : Rouge, Times of India 25/03/06

DR RUBY DHALLA, the youngest woman in the Canadian Parliament and the first South Asian chosen to federal political office in all of North America, in a candid chat with MARTIN D’SOUZA

“I’m a sardarni,” she says with a smile. Her parents migrated to Canada in 1970. Her father passed away some years ago but she takes all her decisions in consultation with her mother and brother. “I think above and beyond any success, family is the most important. My mother always says your success defines how successful you are within your family,” emphasises Dr Ruby, who at 30 years of age, made history in Canadian Parliament when she became the youngest elected MP for her constituency, Brampton Springdale in May 2004.
She is now serving her second term in office after winning the elections on January 23, 2006.
Excerpts from an interview:

What is your idea of politics or being a politician?
Politics is about people working together to create a better quality of life for generations to come. Politics is a calling to be a voice for those who struggle to be heard; it’s about building the type of society we want for a better tomorrow. In Canada, the people who are elected to political offices dedicate their life to politics and make a lot of sacrifices along the way.

What is the one thing you feel politicians should do after taking office?
Obviously, be a person of your word, and have integrity. I think the most important thing in politics is to have the ability to connect with people from all walks of life. You also need to have that passion to put in the work that it requires, to achieve the results you desire.

So what would you say is wrong with the political system in India?
It’s not really my place to comment what is wrong with India’s political system but I do want to say that one of the greatest things that Canada is known for and is a great source of pride is that throughout the world is that it’s a country of equality. We ensure that there are opportunities for everyone. And I hope those qualities of equality and justice and tolerance, acceptance and respect, which we fight for in politics are going to be the qualities that will ultimately define India as a nation and ultimately define the politicians and the politics globally.

What goaded you on to politics. Don’t you think it’s a dirty game meant for those who have no education and are power hungry?
For me, politics is not about a job. It’s not about money. It’s really about looking beyond that. It’s about having a vision and about having ideas I’m a very hard worker and very passionate about what I do and always believe in ensuring that it’s OK to have brains and beauty and be a woman of substance.

Do you get time to be a doctor?
No. I don’t get time to be a doctor. Politics is now an addiction. Instead of dealing with people with their health care problems, I’m dealing with other issues. I always had a passion and love for people.

When did your political journey begin?
When I was 12 years old, I was sponsored for a government programme called ‘Forum For Young Canadians’. At that point, one of the requirements on getting selected was to meet your local MP. I went and told him I was sponsored for this programme and I need to get a donation. ‘He said I’ll give you the donation but you will have to come and volunteer’. I said I’d love to. I did not realise he would make me volunteer for one whole year. It was quite an expensive return for asking for that very small donation. That MPs name was David Walker and he was the Parliamentary Assistant to Paul Martin who at that time was the Minister of Finance.

So it would be right to say you got hooked onto politics?
Absolutely. I had a chance to get involved in the political process. Paul Martin went on to become the leader of our party (Liberal Party) and then the Prime Minister. As I was growing up, I stayed in touch with Mr Martin and was very involved with the Liberal Party.

Do you think more women should be involved in politics?
Not only in Canada, but throughout the world, you have to have women involved. Women have very unique experiences and I think women can add a lot of value to the protocol system not only in Canada but throughout the world and not only in politics but in every industry. Women bring warmth, passion, sincerity, genuineness and insight that is very unique.

Have you ever had to face gender bias?
I think women have to work a lot harder to prove themselves and there are definitely more challenges. There is definitely a gender bias. But I think it’s up to women like myself to ensure that we overcome those challenges; that we break down those barriers. I think it’s a responsibility of every woman throughout the world to make sure that they pave the way to generations to come.

As someone having Indian roots how do you plan to leverage this success of yours to Indian advantage?
I think it’s the responsibility of every NRI throughout the world to promote India and to ensure that it becomes a nation that has tremendous potential and promise. And it’s our responsibility as NRIs to promote that potential and to promote that promise. When you become successful in whatever you do abroad, you are carrying the banner for other Indians throughout the world. Every NRI is the brand ambassador for India.




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Copyright 2006 Martin D'Souza. All rights reserved.