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
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
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
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
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
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.