The Freedom Convoy protests that began this year in response to vaccination requirements have catapulted the trucking industry into the headlines.
However, the faces shown in media coverage don’t reflect the reality of the profession, says Vibha Bhalla, Fulbright Research Chair with Brock University’s Centre for Canadian Studies.
“Close to 20 per cent of Canadian truckers are South Asian,” she says, “but what you see as the face of the industry are all white representatives.”
While the trucking industry has increasingly become a niche for new immigrants, the public hasn’t heard discourse from South Asian truckers, including both drivers and owner-operators with established companies, about how the Freedom Convoy affects them, Bhalla says.
“My aim is to add a voice, a different perspective, to this truckers’ movement,” she says.
Bhalla will share her research with the public in a free talk, “The Invisible Truckers: South Asians and the Canadian Trucking Industry,” held at the St. Catharines Public Library on Thursday, July 14 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Her work encompasses economics, labour needs and immigration policy. Using the magazine Road Today, she is examining race, class and gender issues in the South Asian trucker community.
Road Today, published in English, Hindi and Punjabi, serves Canada’s South Asian trucking community and points to a sizeable population. The magazine discusses federal, provincial and local issues, from national regulations and supply chain challenges to municipal highway access, parking and public bathrooms.
Long term, Bhalla’s research will also include oral interviews and ethnographic research with truckers in Canada and the United States.
Her past work concentrated on Indian immigration in the Detroit area, but she chose to focus her Fulbright research on the Indian diaspora and cross-border migration between Canada and the U.S.
“Indian migration to this part of the world began in the 1950s, once India became independent. As a colonized nation, it didn’t have much infrastructure in education, so educational migration in scientific and professional fields began at this time,” Bhalla says.
Now, South Asian immigrants are one of the largest immigrant populations in both the U.S. and Canada. The ease of border crossing has provided immigrants, who often have social networks on both sides of border, with new opportunities to pursue.
“Trucking is a growth industry, and growth industries always bring in immigrants,” Bhalla says. “I want to show how the trucking industry is changing. Why are South Asians joining this industry and what specific issues are they experiencing within it?”
What: “The Invisible Truckers: South Asians and the Canadian Trucking Industry,” a free, in-person talk by Fulbright Research Chair Vibha Bhalla of Brock University’s Centre for Canadian Studies.
When: Thursday, July 14 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Where: St. Catharines Public Library, 54 Church St., St. Catharines