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Verve People
July 07, 2016

International Impact: Bardish Chagger

Text by Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena

For her victory as a rookie candidate in the Canadian federal election and bagging a ministerial spot in Justin Trudeau’s cabinet

The young Canadian minister for small business and tourism owes her residence in Canada to her grandparents who left India to set up home there. Young and ambitious, Bardish Chagger initially thought of becoming a nurse. Her initiation into politics happened due to her father, Goji, a Sikh immigrant.  As a party volunteer (she worked with Andrew Telegdi for long), Chagger toiled behind the scenes. She did her graduation from the University of Waterloo with a Bachelor of Science. In 2012, the Waterloo Region Record recognised Bardish as one of the ‘40 under 40’ who would lead the Region of Waterloo into the future. The MP and minister says she is lucky to have a job that does not feel like work.

Defining moments: “My father showed me the importance of being an active, engaged participant in our community from an early age. He is a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to some things. While he was very happy to have me put up campaign signs during elections, or go to meetings — he seemed a little surprised at how much of it rubbed off on me. He used to say, ‘Don’t debate with me at my kitchen table!’ But we did debate and discuss — and I think that honed my skills for the House of Commons more than anything else.”

Important influencers: “My aunt really inspired me. She was the first woman in my family to graduate from university. She showed me that you need to make your own success.”

Success mantra: “Often in immigrant communities, there is a lot of pressure to live up to certain expectations or to pursue certain roles. If you are happy and feel fulfilled in what you’re doing, then you are successful. The greatest barrier for a lot of people is to stop worrying about what other people think and to accept that any success you have is yours.”

On being the voice of Waterloo: “I was born and raised in this community — it’s a part of me. Even though I have had a very strong interest in politics since an early age, it actually took quite a bit of convincing to get me to run. I always preferred to work behind the scenes. But with all of the support I received — and continue to receive now that I am elected — I know I made the right choice and I’m determined to be a strong voice for our community.”

Going beyond the diaspora: “I have been the organiser of the K-W Multicultural Festival for the past five years. It has enabled me to interact with the many diverse groups of our community and their rich array of arts and cultures. I am also proud to be a member of the board of MT Space, Waterloo Region’s first multicultural theatre company, I have long been passionate about the way theatre can be used to reflect and embrace the diversity of modern Canadian society.”

Read about our next power woman, Alka Banerjee.

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