Making the Senate Work for the Community

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By Dr Asha Seth, Senator

A little over a year ago I could have never imagined the many wonderful opportunities that my new role as a member of the Senate of Canada would provide. Most of my life I was simply as Dr. Asha Seth, and I dedicated myself to the practice of Obstetrics and Gynecology. This task was fulfilling and allowed me to bring the gift of medicine and health to many patients in my hometown of Toronto.  Yet I never wanted the good I could do for others to be confined by the walls of my office.

That is why from early on I became involved in several community initiatives and charitable organizations including the Canadian Institute of the Blind, and founded the Canadian Foundation for Health and Human Welfare, which raised funds for numerous charities across Canada. This involvement gave me the opportunity to give back and share my blessings with those in need.

When I received a call from Prime Minister Harper to join the Parliament of Canada as a Senator I was honoured, humbled, and of course a little nervous. I knew I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to represent Indo-Canadians and the Conservative Government. I wanted to make a contribution to the Government’s agenda of improving economic growth through jobs, training and trade, so I was thrilled to add “Senator” to the list of my treasured roles and commitments. I also knew that the conservatives were reaching out to the multicultural communities of Canada in an unprecedented way and that I wanted to be part of that movement.

With that in mind, I was sworn in as Canada’s first Indo-Canadian female Senator on January 25th, 2012, and was given the keys to the country’s most important platform.  I knew that from this moment on my actions and words would be a reflection not only upon me but upon all ethnic communities in Canada; I did not want to let them down. I was aware of my status within the multicultural population and immediately started working on bringing awareness to the issues affecting them.  Wanting to include those who had been neglected for so long, I developed a passionate community outreach initiative that could connect with peoples of all ethnicities. I knew that if we could make new Canadians and their communities feel welcome they would not only become more interested in politics but in the wellbeing of their country.  I devoted my 2012 summer break to engaging with Canadians in large public events such as the 40th Annual Festival of India and the Toronto Ukrainian Festival.

As part of my legislative duties in the Senate, I joined the Aboriginal Peoples Committee and the Social Affairs, Science, and Technology Committee.  The committees form an important link in the legislative process and I was certain that my many years of experience as a physician could offer a unique perspective on matters concerning health, welfare, cultural affairs, and the arts.

In November of 2012, nine month into my new career as a parliamentarian, Prime Minister Stephen Harper asked me to accompany him to India on his longest official visit ever. The high profile delegation aimed at developing the already long and fruitful history of international cooperation between Canada and India.  I felt proud to represent the more than one million Indo-Canadians that call Canada their home.  The delegation was successful in completing multiple agreements designed to increase trade and enhance security.  During a meeting with the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, I witnessed India’s commitment to developing cultural and commercial ties with Canada. As a child of Uttar Pradesh, I found it important to engage the state’s Chief Minister, Akhilesh Yadav, to discuss bilateral cooperation.  In a private meeting in Lucknow, Chief Minister Yadav declared his intent on making Canada a key partner of development.

Yet soon after coming home I knew I had to return to India. I wanted to keep the momentum in full force and ensure that the partnerships we made in November were not only growing, but thriving. I also wanted to explore more opportunities for education exchanges, and promote professional training and development for women in business.

In January 2013, I made my second visit to India where I presented official greetings from Prime Minister Harper to Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi at the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investor’s Summit and to the Chief Minister of Kerala, Oommen Chandy at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebrations. 

A few days later I traveled to Patna, Bihar, to meet Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on the topic of bilateral trade, energy, and international cooperation. To top it off, I returned to Uttar Pradesh to meet the Vice-Chancellor and executive council of my alma mater, King George’s Medical University where we discussed the many wonderful academic research and exchange opportunities that can be developed between Canada and India.

Now, as I move forward into my second year in the Senate I plan to continue my work in promoting the mission and mandate of the Government of Canada in my community. I want to pursue strategies that bring economic and social benefits to women. In February I travelled to British Columbia to open the South Asian Health Institute, the first of its kind in Canada, and on March 1st, I was privileged to collaborate with the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute to discuss "women and business in India" at the HEC Montreal Global Business Forum. It has been a whirlwind year, and I am so thankful for the opportunities I have been given to link our community and our government. I cannot wait to see what 2013 has in store for me in my role as Senator.


Vol. 12 - No. 3


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