The New Democratic Party candidate shared her personal experience immigrating to Canada; one very similar to a majority of those in the Mississauga-Malton riding she hopes to represent.
While the other candidates and their teams were still setting up their campaign merchandise on the tables at the Malton Community Centre on Monday night, Nikki Clarke wasted no time methodically shaking as many hands as she could before the debate started.
The NDP candidate in the Mississauga-Malton riding had much to say at the debate. Besides her recent involvement in politics, Clarke hosts her own online TV program, The Nikki Clarke Show, and is known around the community for her work involving Black History Month initiatives in Malton.
According to an election riding profile by mississauga.ca, the Mississauga-Malton riding has 118,000 residents – most are new Canadians from places such as the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia.
When the candidates were asked if the immigration process should be reformed, Clarke outlined her party’s platform on the topic.
“There is a part of immigration that still needs to be fixed,” Clarke told the audience at the debate. “We need, as a government, to implement a quicker processing system to unify families – that is something that is very important to the NDP.”
As the crowd listened to the candidates express their takes on the topic, one man stood out more than the rest, mainly because he might have been the tallest person in the room. Dressed in an orange shirt and a beret, Younger Younger has been a resident in Malton since 1974. The son of immigrant parents, Younger is a volunteer for Clarke.
“I think, you know, eye-to-eye, heart-to-heart, it’s very necessary. A lot of what the NDP is doing for me is not so much theoretical – it’s experiential and practical,” Younger said.
Younger works with legalline.ca, an online platform where those who need assistance, including newcomers, can find free, easy to understand answers to their legal questions.
“Someone that’s immigrating to Canada, they can use it as a portal… to get an introduction to the laws of the land that is Canada,” Younger said.
Younger feels all the candidates need to make immigration their priority.
“We have a culture here that sees a diversity of people, so, it is a part of the many things to be looking at with the candidates.”
A large percentage of immigrants in Canada, and specifically in the Mississauga-Malton riding are international students. Specifically, 245,895 international students were enrolled in Canadian colleges and universities in the 2016/2017 school year. The riding is home to two of three of Sheridan College’s campuses.
Vatsala Chandilya, a 23-year-old woman from India who currently resides in Malton, originally came to Canada on a student visa. She is currently waiting on her work permit.
“I would say everything is okay as an immigrant, but there are a few things which [the] government needs to focus on,” Chandilya said, referring to the immigration process as it stands.
The cost to immigrate to Canada is yet another hurdle faced by immigrants who choose to come here on a student visa.
“The problem is, after you come here you have so many things that you face, especially related to money. I was a student [and] there are many students like me who are living here, paying excessive rent and paying excessive taxes,” she said.
It is a familiar story for the NDP’s Clarke, who told the audience she, too, was no exception.
“It took some time to acclimatize,” Clarke said. “We had to go through a process where my parents left respectable jobs in Jamaica to start from the bottom and work their way up [in Canada].”