South Asian GG prospect gets petition support

A petition asking Prime Minister Stephen Harper to pick a Mississauga, Ont., man as Canada's next governor general has gathered more than 12,000 signatures.

A grassroots campaign is underway hoping to convince Prime Minister Stephen Harper to pick a Mississauga, Ont., man as Canada's next governor general.

Akbar Warris is one of more than 12,000 people to have signed the petition asking for Bikram Lamba to be named Canada's viceregal representative.

Among other endeavours, Lamba volunteers his free time helping members of the South Asian community with immigration issues.

"Any problems that people have — let's say on immigration issues, people have employment issues, people have education issues — he's there to help," said Warris.

For most Canadians, the name Bikram Lamba won't spring to mind when talk turns to who will replace Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean.

But like Jean and former governor general Adrienne Clarkson, Lamba has worked in the media. He is well known in the southern Ontario South Asian community for his commentaries on local television. And he does political analysis on a daily South Asian radio call-in show broadcast in the Greater Toronto Area.

He's also ombudsman for the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada and has a PhD in English literature.

Lamba has expressed interest in taking up the role and says he'd be a strong advocate not only for South Asians and new immigrants, but for all Canadians — though it's not clear if he has any facility with French. 

Before coming to Canada from India, Lamba acted as a political adviser to a number of governments.

"I have been advising the [former] prime ministers of India Madame [Indira] Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. We advised the government of Uzbekistan on health reforms. We advised the government of Ghana on infrastructure development," he said.

Lamba is flattered by the move to get his name considered for the job of governor general.

Warris said Lamba is deserving of the attention.

"We would want a South Asian to be at a position where we can pay back to this beautiful society and country. So that was the main theme, love for this country … and then we saw that his credentials, or resumé, match the portfolio and that's what started the whole matter," said Warris.

His supporters say they will be collecting signatures for a few more weeks and hope to get the petition to Ottawa by the end of the month.