Navdeep Singh Bains

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Navdeep Singh Bains is a Member of Parliament in Canada and the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development of Canada.

This week, I met the youngest Member of Parliament (MP) in the world. Navdeep Bains is just 27 years old and elected to the Canadian Parliament. The child-like innocence on his face was hard to digest. There was no aggressive flag bearing over any issue, yet when he spoke it was with conviction. "I love my country Canada, as it gave me every opportunity to be what I am. It gave me education, which was far beyond literacy. It gave me freedom to practise the religion of my choice — Sikhism. It has now given me an opportunity without any bias against my race or religion by electing me as MP," he spoke without raising his voice but with firmness.

Bains did his undergraduate studies at York University in Toronto taking his MBA from the University of Windsor with specialisation in finance. He was visiting Punjab after 10 years and was in India with the Canadian Prime Minister’s delegation.

What are his impressions of youth in Punjab? "Frankly, I had a limited interaction with people but my observation is that the youth of Punjab is deeply rooted in its culture. It appears that the youth also has great faith in Sikhism or Hinduism but I was sad to learn that alcoholism and drug addiction is on the rise among the youth. It seems there is lack of awareness about both these addictions. But my knowledge about these observations could be inadequate," he makes a cautious effort not to pass judgment.

When asked whether he knew that nearly 20,000 women in Punjab have been deserted by their greedy and conniving NRI husbands — a majority of whom live in Canada, he answered matter of factly: "I am aware of this practice. Again, I feel that women and their parents in Punjab need to be educated that marriage should not be treated as a gamble. They should check out the credentials of the prospective groom."

As an MP will he work on the extradition agreement, so that absconding NRI grooms could be brought to the Indian courts? The young MP says: "The Canadian society as well as the government is very protective about its citizens. It would be hard for them to digest that their citizens could be tried outside their country. In addition, the majority of Canadians, at least today, do not know or understand such issues related to a minority community like the Sikhs or the Punjabis. If this issue has to be handled in the court of law, whether in Canada or India, first of all this reprehensible practice has to be made known to them. Canadian society is groomed to not only demand justice but also deliver justice. Hence, as an MP, I cannot raise this issue all of a sudden."

So, what are the issues before him? "Well, I am not a token MP. I am a Canadian at heart with a desire to serve. I can say with confidence that education can uplift human beings. I shall be focusing on education. Secondly, I believe in international development. I respect Canadian International Development Agency’s (CIDA) role in this regard.

I wish to create a ‘tomorrow’ for the coming generations, where in all societies could live in peace and harmony and where there is no place for hatred and cheating. A few criminal-minded people could be in any race but you cannot punish the entire race for that handful. Look, at what cost the USA is providing security to its citizens. We can’t say that there wasn’t any backlash of 9/11 in Canada but we soon succeeded in getting over it because Canadian society is more tolerant and respectful towards all races and communities."

Is Sikhism being followed in its true spirit by the Sikhs living in Canada? Once again, Bains spoke without any trace of hypocrisy, "Sikhism is thriving in Canada but cases of violence in gurdwaras or shootouts by certain Sikhs on roads is growing. I feel the younger generation is following Sikhism much more devotedly and honestly than the older generation. I feel proud that leaving aside certain directionless youth, the majority is following Sikhism in its true sense."

It is hard to believe that there could be a politician who could be so forthright.