BY BALWANT SANGHERA
President, Punjabi Language Education Association
THE Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA) had a very successful virtual celebration of the 18th International Mother Language Day on February 20. In view of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic it was a very different kind of celebration. It was great to have well-wishers of Punjabi language join us from various places including California, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary and Metro Vancouver. Businessman Barj Dhahan set the stage for the celebration by reciting a poem by prominent Punjabi writer/poet Dhani Ram Chatrak in Punjabi and English. PLEA’s MC Kamaljit Kambo began the celebration by welcoming everyone. She then introduced Harman Pandher who gave a brief overview of the program
Deepak Binning Foundation (DBF) has been a strong supporter of PLEA all along. It has provided a lot of funding for student scholarships not only to PLEA but also to UBC and Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU). DBF President and Director of PLEA, Paul Binning, welcomed the guests and gave a brief overview of DBF. Binning then introduced Steven Lewarne from KPU, a partner with DBF and PLEA, to say a few words.
I gave the attendees an update on PLEA’s activities during the past year and upcoming challenges. It is very encouraging to note that Punjabi classes are well under way in many elementary, secondary and post-secondary institutions in Metro Vancouver. Also, a lot of work has been done in promoting Punjabi in the community. However, we still have a lot more to do. The upcoming census in May 2021 will provide all of us with an opportunity to promote selection of Punjabi as our mother tongue. Every resident of Canada on that date is entitled to that and must do so.
In addition to brief speeches by invited guests, including Surrey School Trustee Garry Thind, and Surrey School District’s Director of Instruction Shauna Ross, the students were the stars of the show. They included Mehakpreet Dhaliwal, Sehajpreet Dhaliwal, Sukhman Kambo, Prabhjeet Kaur, Jaspreet Kaur, Saffalsher Singh, Keeret Dhanoa, Gursimrat Dhanoa, Sahib Singh and Prabhroop Singh Mangat. All of them recited very inspiring poems and stories about the ongoing farmers’ campaign on the outskirts of New Delhi against the new Indian farm laws. PLEA Vice President Sadhu Binning also expressed strong support for the farmers’ cause. Speaking about the status of Punjabi in Canada, he mentioned that we need to continue our efforts in getting our mother tongue Punjabi its due place in Canada. He also assured the attendees that PLEA will continue its efforts in convincing Victoria to facilitate implementation of Punjabi language in BC schools.
Special guest Navkiran Kaur Natt, student youth leader and editor of the Kisan Andolan’s newspaper Trolley News, gave a very inspirational account of the activities at the Singhu border headquarters of the Indian farmers’ protest. She emphasized that the farmers, labourers and their supporters are there for the long run. It is going to be a tough fight with the government but eventually the farmers will succeed in having these three farm laws repealed. Natt stressed that like so many other young people, she is also very proud to be a part of this campaign since its beginning. She mentioned that though the protest on the outskirts of Delhi is only three months old, actually, in the Punjab it has been going on since August 2020.
Natt stated that she is very impressed and pleased with the widespread support for the farmers’ protest not only from all over India but also from abroad. She spoke fondly about the role that Punjabi language has been playing in this campaign. Navkiran stated that most of the songs, plays and newsletters in this struggle are in Punjabi. She emphasized that Punjabi has become the main language of this historic protest. It has brought Punjabis closer to their mother tongue. This will leave a long-lasting impact on the Punjabis’ relationship with their mother tongue.
The celebration concluded with closing remarks from some of the PLEA Board members and invited guests. On behalf of PLEA, I would like to thank all of the participants in making the 18th International Mother Language Day a great success.