Categorized | Independence Day

Shaping Canada’s Future

Posted on 11 August 2010 by .

A recent news item about an American of Pakistani origin apprehended by authorities while attempting to return to the United States with a trunk-load of Pakistani mangoes of the chaunsa variety caught my attention. Frankly, I did not know that Canada permitted the importing of Pakistani mangoes and the United Sates did not. Nor did I know that Americans have been slipping across the U.S.-Canada border to satisfy their summer desires for this delicate fruit for several years now. Indian mangoes are widely available in the United States already, but apparently they simply don’t meet the needs or the discerning taste buds of Pakistanis living in south of the border. Hence, mango smuggling is becoming a problem to be dealt with.

This fruit challenge, however, may be about to change as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week opened the door to helping Pakistan export its agricultural produce, including these beloved mangoes, to our southern neighbour. We can only hope!

More interesting for me, though, as a Member of Parliament representing a large Pakistani-Canadian population, as well as a large Indian-Canadian population, was the debate that was revealed in the article regarding which of these two great countries has the best mango: is it the Pakistani varieties of chaunsa and anwar ratol which are the sweetest and therefore the best, or the popular Indian alphonso, a close cousin of the Pakistani varieties? This is obviously a hot debate. From the experts, I have heard that comparing the Indian and Pakistani varieties is like comparing apples and oranges. Of course, I am going to have to develop my own palette before I can be a judge of this. If anyone would like to influence me, I can let them know where to deliver a case or two of their favourite mangoes!

As we approach the 63rd anniversary of the Independence of India and the Independence of Pakistan (often known as partition), Canadians of all backgrounds hope and pray that the biggest disagreement that these two neighbours will ever have is over which has the sweetest mangoes! We know that that has not always been the case; the history of these two great countries has been at times slightly difficult and at other times extremely conflicted. In recent years, however, there is increased cooperation and signs that these two neighbours recognize that they have much more in common with each other than not.

While language, religion and some cultural traditions may be different, while history is still shaped by some historic disagreements and misunderstandings, these two democratic countries are bound together with a shared history and, even more importantly, a future that is intimately linked together. Their own future, and the future of the world, depends on their working together for the good of all. South Asia, Afghanistan, Iran and the Caucuses constitute a region in much turmoil. The maturity and cooperation of India and Pakistan will be critical to ensure that terrorism is curtailed, that economic opportunities are maximised and that a just and lasting peace for the entire region is ensured.

Canadians of Pakistani and Indian origin can play a key role in ensuring that this becomes a reality. Through family and business connections, South Asians have both a great opportunity to influence this situation directly. They can do so also indirectly through shaping Canada’s contribution on the world stage. Canada needs to regain its international prominence as a leader in human rights, peaceful interventions, diplomacy and development. Indo and Pakistani Canadians will lead the way for us on Canadian business, trade and foreign policy in the area they once called home.

May I extend my warmest greetings to all Canadians for whom these Independence days are important and meaningful.

Mr. Robert Oliphant represents Don Valley West, Toronto at House of Commons.

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