Todd Doherty believes we are all at the point where we need our faith.
The Cariboo-Prince George MP recently held an online meeting with Indo-Canadian constituents from communities such as Prince George, Vanderhoof and Quesnel, who shared their concerns on how COVID-19 and other ongoing events have impacted them locally, internationally, and financially.
“The reason why I called this meeting is over the course of last year, it’s probably been the hardest year to be an elected official, but it has been hard on our communities that have friends and family overseas, and nowhere are we seeing communities hardest hit in recent days than we are in India,” Doherty said Wednesday, May 19.
Doherty was joined by Conservative colleagues Edmonton Mill Woods, MP Tim Uppal, and Calgary Forest Lawn MP Jasraj Singh Hallan.
Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara secretary Pal Bassi believes the Canadian Government should do more and call for the Government of India to resolve ongoing protests by farmers. Hundreds of thousands have been living in tents and camps pitched on highways for months.
Doherty agreed it is difficult to watch.
According to Bassi, the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara has not received any COVID relief funds from federal or provincial governments.
Doherty said that while it is similar to a business, it is still a faith-based organization and there has been no funding available for that.
“Unfortunately the Liberal government has not come forward with any kind of programs specifically for places of worship because many of them have mortgages to pay, utility bills, and the lockdown is preventing people from going there and donating and being a part of it,” Uppal said.
Meanwhile, Doherty said provincially he is troubled by the ongoing gun and gang violence in B.C.’s Lower Mainland that could spread to Interior and Northern communities and is claiming the lives of someone’s brother, sister, uncle, aunt or cousin.
An attendant, Dr. Manpreet Sidhu of Prince George said that everyday she sees patients struggling with their mental health—and for youth and elders it is of particular concern.
She said more work needs to be done to prevent youth from getting involved in gang activity, addressing mental health and trauma, and helping those struggling with their identity.
“On the ground, we’re struggling for resources,” Sidhu added.
“It is always a challenge, especially in the area of youth mental health, particularly in the north as we struggle to recruit any child psychiatrists that will stay up here.”
In Calgary, Hallan said they ended up renting space to teach Punjabi every night that eventually attracted 400 kids attending a safe place to come and talk.
Another participant, Narinder Ludu who is a business owner, had finished building a Best Western Hotel on Highway 16 mid-last year after beginning work in 2017 and said he had been told he does not qualify for relief funds, subsidies or low-interest loans as he was not in business before COVID-19.
Over the last year, more than 200,000 businesses across Canada have closed their doors resulting in the loss of millions of jobs according to Doherty, adding at least one in six businesses are considering closure.
Vanderhoof business owner Ash Talwar plays cricket over the weekends with a small group of fewer than ten people and said they hope to host cricket matches in the future when safe.
In New Delhi Talwar’s family has been hit hard by the novel coronavirus, with his 89-year-old grandmother testing positive twice for the disease and on oxygen for the last 30 days.
“I have so many close friends and family members that have lost people so things are tough out there in regards to COVID,” he said, noting his worry is if someone in his family needs him, how does he travel.
Doherty encouraged constituents to reach out to his office any time and said he hopes to host such meetings again soon to ‘stay together, reconnect, and make sure we’re not losing sight of what’s important and keeping together as a community.’