Bardish Chagger, Waterloo’s hometown hero visited her roots here at WCI this Remembrance Day. Having been elected the riding’s Member of Parliament in the recent federal election, Chagger has reached new heights in her political career. Newly appointed the Minister of Small Business and Tourism on Justin Trudeau’s cabinet, Bardish Chagger is moving mountains.
Commenting on the nation’s first ever gender equal cabinet, Chagger said, “It’s not 50[%] men and 50[%] women, it’s  incredible Canadians that are going to help advance the nation. And not only is it [the] cabinet – we have an amazing caucus, and we are committed to working with members on all sides of the house to represent Canadians, because it’s not party affiliation really in the House of Commons, [it’s] Canadian values that we’re advancing [in] the best interest of Canadians and Canada.”
When asked how she feels representing minority groups in the cabinet, Chagger simply said, “Everyone is a minority.”
She went on to say, “It could be the way you look, it could be the choice of hobby that you have, it could be whatever, but you never know [at] what stage you’re going to be on the minority side. And that’s why minority rights are so important. Because you might be the ‘cool cat’ one day but really easily you will be on the minority side the next. So you don’t know what challenges you have com[ing]. I think everybody has some minority in them, it’s just a matter of looking a little bit deeper. But before we’re anything, we’re Canadians- proud Canadians.”
Bardish traces the beginning of her involvement in politics back to her days studying at the University of Waterloo, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science. She said,“The vision and the goal was to go into nursing. But because my parents immigrated here from India, and at that time the big idea was [that] to be successful you had to go to university, I went.”
Chagger’s transition into politics stemmed from her father’s involvement in the 1993 campaign, when Jean Chretien took a majority government.
Chagger described her experience: “The demographics of this community were changing at the time, so it was important to have a voice. I was helping my dad on that campaign, pounding in signs for Andrew Telegdi, the candidate at that time, and then I remained involved. My father walked away from the association, and I walked more into it.”
From that point forward, Chagger’s commitment to politics, and in particular to the Liberal party, grew. She became president of the Young Liberals association at the university, and from there, president of the KW Young Liberals association, the KW Women’s Liberal Commission, and executive vice president of the Ontario Young Liberals association. She also served as an executive assistant to Waterloo’s former Member of Parliament, Andrew Telegdi, and finally as a regional co-leader for Justin Trudeau’s leadership campaign in SouthWestern Ontario.
“The Liberal party [provides] an opportunity for great debate. So there’s not a perspective that you won’t find within the Liberal membership. What we believe in is a democratic debate and then it’s the best interest or the majority’s will that we advance,” said Chagger.
Chagger attended WCI’s Remembrance Day assembly on November 11, and afterward she commented on how her attachment to her party’s values capture the essence of the day: “To me, I believe that Canadian values are best reflected through the Liberal party[’s] values. So whether it be equity, inclusion, and respect for all, [those] are things I hold close to myself. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the document, the encyclopedia, the Bible that I go by and that I live by. Today being Remembrance Day is quite fitting because people have fought for our rights and freedoms; and you don’t [get] to pick and choose rights.”
During her visit to WCI, Chagger expressed these sentiments towards the high school from which she graduated: “I’ve got everybody at WCI to thank. I think when you take that transition going from [elementary] school to high school, it’s a big deal. And I think it’s important that you’re welcomed in properly and that the opportunities are shared. Mr. Pavey was awesome, my gym teachers were awesome. Everybody had something to contribute, and I would say, to truly be successful you have to take from everyone and allow them to be part of that. I’m proud to have graduated from WCI, I’m proud of our education system and the ability [of] our teachers to encourage us to actually participate not only in the political process but in community.”
Interview: Monica Marczuk
Photography: Michael Frazer