Ujjal Dosanjh

From Academic Kids

The Honourable Ujjal Singh Dosanjh, P.C., B.A., LL.B., M.P. (born September 9, 1947, India) is a Canadian Member of Parliament and lawyer. He is married with three children.


Dosanjh is currently a member of the Liberal government of Paul Martin, serving as the federal Minister of Health. He was formerly Premier of British Columbia and leader of the New Democratic Party.


Early Life

From India, at the age of 17, Dosanjh emigrated to London, England. 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, 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 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 Bharati Sanman Award 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.

Provincial Politics

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 an 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. This made him Canada's first non-white and first Indo-Canadian provincial premier.

When Dosanjh took office, 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 a much-wanted election. 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 accession of Liberal premier Gordon Campbell, Mr. Dosanjh returned to practicing law. Joy MacPhail became interim leader of the NDP on June 16, 2001, one month after the election debacle.

Federal Politics

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 18,194 to 10,346 margin over his closest rival, Conservative Victor Soo Chan.

In July 2004, he was appointed Minister of Health in the federal Cabinet.

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