He is the Jalandhari that has achieved the highest elected positions achieved by any Jalandhari in the western world. He was born on September 9, 1947, at Jalandhar, India). He is a Canadian lawyer and politician, currently serving as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Vancouver South now.
Dosanjh formerly served as the 33rd Premier of British Columbia and leader of the New Democratic Party of British Columbia, and as the federal Minister of Health in Paul Martin’s government.
Dosanjh emigrated to London, England, from India at the age of 17. Four years later, in 1968, he moved to Canada. He worked at a sawmill in Vancouver for several years and attended classes at Langara College. He later graduated from Simon Fraser University with honours in political science. In 1976, he graduated from the University of British Columbia Law School. In 1979, he established his own law practice in Vancouver.
His involvement in the community has included work with the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, MOSAIC, South Vancouver Neighbourhood House, the Labour Advocacy Research Association, and the Vancouver Multicultural Society. He taught English as a second language at Vancouver Community College. He helped found the Farm Workers’ Legal Information Service for janitorial, domestic and farm workers. This later led to the foundation of the Canadian Farm Workers’ Union.
As a prominent moderate Sikh who speaks out against the violence by Sikh extremists in India, he has been targeted by extremists within Canada. In 1985, he was physically attacked in the parking lot of his law office by a man with a lead pipe. He received 80 stitches in the head and a broken hand. Also, his constituency office was fire-bombed on the morning of December 26, 1999.
In January 2003, Mr. Dosanjh received the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman (Expatriate Indian Honour) from Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in New Delhi. The award recognizes individual excellence in various fields for persons of Indian Origin across the world.
After unsuccessful attempts in 1979 and 1983, Dosanjh was first elected as a member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia in October 1991 in the Vancouver-Kensington riding. He was re-elected in 1996.
As a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) he held cabinet portfolios as Minister of Government Services, and Minister of Multiculturalism, Human Rights and Sports. In August 1995, he was appointed as the province’s Attorney General by Premier Glen Clark.
When Clark resigned amid scandal, Dosanjh became leader of British Columbia’s New Democratic Party and BC’s 33rd Premier on February 24, 2000. He was the first Indian-Canadian and first visible minority premier in Canadian history, though it is debatable as to whether or not he was the first “non-white” to hold office (John Norquay, a Métis, was premier of Manitoba from 1878-87, and Peter Lougheed, also Métis, was premier of Alberta from 1971-85).
When Dosanjh was sworn in to office on February 24, 2000, the NDP government was deeply unpopular, due to the lingering controversy around former leader and premier Glen Clark. Dosanjh proved unable to distance himself from the controversy. Amid criticism from the opposition parties, Dosanjh remained in office for nearly a year before calling the election for May 16, 2001. It was assumed his party would suffer terribly, and as a result Dosanjh attempted to use his remaining days in power to improve the NDP’s standing by implementing several new policies, such as tax cuts.
When the election was eventually called, Dosanjh remained on the defensive for virtually the entire campaign. He attempted to distance himself from the Clark scandals by pointing out that as Attorney-General, he had been the person who announced the criminal investigation against Clark, which forced the Premier’s resignation. The attempts did not work, however and Dosanjh’s attempts to rebuild the party failed. The NDP government had become so unpopular under Clark that in Dosanjh’s campaign the party’s name was almost never used on posters and ads. The focus was instead on Dosanjh, who was promoted as a leader with a “new vision” for BC. Though his personal approval ratings remained high, voters were ultimately unable to separate his leadership from that of his predecessor.
Dosanjh led the NDP to overwhelming defeat in the provincial election of 2001, winning just two of 79 seats. He lost his own seat, and announced his resignation that night. With the official swearing in of Liberal premier Gordon Campbell on June 5,Mr. Dosanjh returned to practising law. Joy MacPhail became interim leader of the NDP on June 16, 2001, one month after the election debacle.
In 2004, Dosanjh re-entered politics as a candidate for Paul Martin’s Liberal Party of Canada in the 2004 federal election. Controversially, Martin appointed him directly as Liberal candidate in the riding of Vancouver South, bypassing the usual nomination election among resident party members. Dosanjh’s departure from the NDP also earned him criticism from his past supporters. Despite this, Dosanjh won his riding by a wide 18,194 to 10,346 margin over his closest rival, Conservative Victor Soo Chan, and was appointed Minister of Health in the federal Cabinet.
Dosanjh went on to be re-elected in his riding in the 2006 election, but had to relinquish his position in the cabinet as the Liberal party lost the election overall. Soon after, he was appointed National Defence Critic in the Official Opposition Shadow Cabinet. On January 18, 2007, Dosanjh was moved to the Foreign Affairs critic portfolio.
In the leadership contest called to replace Paul Martin as leader of the Liberal Party, he supported Bob Rae,a fellow former-NDP premier. Following the third ballot, when Rae was dropped, he supported Stéphane Dion.
Dosanjh suffered a mild heart attack on the morning of February 13, 2007, outside the House of Commons. He was attended by fellow MP Carolyn Bennett, who is also a doctor, and he was rushed to hospital where a successful operation to remove a blood clot near his heart was performed.
Mr. Dosanjh and his wife Raminder have three sons: Pavel, Aseem and Umber