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August 23, 1999
Ujjal Dosanjh Likely To Fight To Be British Columbia Premier
A P Kamath
As Glen Clark, the feisty premiere of British Columbia finally decided that the financial scandals involving his alleged connections to casinos, had plunged his popularity too low and stepped down on Saturday, many political observers were surprised that he was not succeeded by Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh.
Clark has fiercely maintained his innocence in the licensing and other scandals, but admitted it wasn't possible for him to continue to function as premier while he is being investigated.
In the past four months, speculations about the political prospects of Dosanjh, once an editor of a Punjabi newspaper and a mill worker, have been soaring. His fight against crime and consumer fraud have won him a high profile in provincial politics. The achievements of Dosanjh, born and raised in India, have brought him attention in the national media. The Globe and Mail ran a page one story recently about the high prospects of him becoming premier.
But insiders say that Dosanjh, who kept his job in the Clark cabinet despite his increasing criticism of the premier and whose office is actively involved in the investigation of the premier, did not want to take up the position -- right now.
Dosanjh would rather wait to push his stakes when a full membership convention of the National Democratic Party will be held in October. His reluctance to take up the position led to the NDP caucus naming deputy premier Dan Miller to succeed Clark.
Miller, due to be sworn in mid-week, said he won't run at that convention but "will do his best" as premier in the short term.
Dosanjh, who is in his mid 50s, was sworn in about three years ago for his second term as attorney-general of British Columbia and Minister Responsible for Multiculturalism, Human Rights and Immigration. He was first appointed attorney-general in August 1995 and before that served as minister of government services and minister responsible for multiculturalism, human rights, sports and immigration.
He was first elected a member of the legislative assembly for Vancouver-Kensington in the 1991 provincial general election and re-elected in 1996. While a member of the caucus, Dosanjh twice served as Caucus Chair and also chaired the select standing committee on parliamentary reform, ethical conduct, standing orders and private bills. He served on the following select standing committees: justice, constitutional affairs and intergovernmental relations, public accounts and aboriginal affairs.
Dosanjh, first emigrated to England with his family at the age of 17 and, four years later, to Canada.
He obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from Simon Fraser University, followed by a law degree from the University of British Columbia. In 1979, he established his own law practice in Vancouver.
Prior to completing university, Dosanjh was an assistant editor of a Punjabi newspaper in England and after coming to British Columbia worked in a mill and taught English as a Second Language to new Canadians at the Vancouver Community College.
A long time human rights activist, his past community involvement's include: South Vancouver Neighborhood House, MOSAIC, Vancouver Multicultural Society and the BC Civil Liberties Association. In 1977, he helped set up the first farm workers' legal information service while he was chair of the Labour Advocacy Research Association. Ujjal and Raminder Dosanjh have three sons: Pavel, Aseem and Umber.
Known for his earthy humor, tenacity and the ability to survive political crises. Native American groups have been demanding that he should be held responsible for the alleged excesses of Royal Canadian Mounted Police personnel who raided a camp at Lake Gustafsen near Vancouver two years ago. There were speculations that the camp was becoming a cult center, and its members had amassed illegal arms and drugs.
The raid resulted in injuries to many people, and the RCMP was accused of using excessive force, and the supporters of the camp allege that the RCMP cooked up evidence against the campers.
But Dosanjh has been able to ward off the criticism, assuring that his department would not hamper the on-going investigation into the alleged atrocities.
Political observers in Vancouver believe that Dosanjh would not have been able to survive the crisis but for his strong profile with the voters and the public at large.
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