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Charting citizenship : the political participation of immigrants in Richmond and Surrey, BC Rose, John Stanley

Abstract

This thesis presents an examination of immigrant political participation in Richmond and Surrey, BC, during the 1990s, with a particular focus on Chinese-Canadians from Hong Kong and South Asian-Canadians from the Punjab region of India. The purpose of the thesis is to examine the extent and direction of citizenship, as measured by political participation, among these Canadian citizens. The research addresses various contemporary theories on citizenship and immigrant settlement: how immigrants are being incorporated as citizens in their country of settlement, and/or sustain political transnational activities that span the borders of nation-states. Electoral returns for the 1991, 1996, and 2001 British Columbia Provincial General Elections, and returns for the 1993, 1997, and 2000 Canadian Federal General Elections, are compared with census data for Richmond and Surrey to assess the relationship between immigrant status, ethnic origin, and voter turnout. Focus groups and interviews with 100 Punjabi-origin and Hong Kong-origin residents are also drawn upon to assess voter participation rates, as well as participation in extra electoral political activities, non-electoral politics, and transnational political activities. The research finds little evidence of transnational political activity, and that most participants' political energies are directed towards formal Canadian electoral politics, especially voting. Additional electoral and non-electoral participation was also evident. Electoral analysis indicates that immigrant status is only modestly related with voter turnout, though by the turn of the 2000s, immigrant status--especially recent immigrant status--becomes increasingly associated with declines in voter participation. The research also finds, in the realm of voting and other electoral and non-electoral activities, little differentiation in the overall participation rates between Hong Kong-origin Chinese Canadians and Punjabi-origin South Asian Canadians. Their considerable participation in formal Canadian politics notwithstanding, the thesis also finds that immigrant-origin, ethnic minority citizens harbour considerable concerns with the way in which the Canadian political system addresses their concerns, and believe that co-ethnic representation is necessary to make the political system more responsive and representative.

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