PLEA’s 13th Annual International Mother Language Day Celebration
March 10, 2016
by Harpreet Sekha and Parvinder Dhariwal
The Punjabi Language Education Association celebrated their 13th annual International Mother Language day event on February 27th at the North Delta Recreation Centre. The audience was comprised of students, teachers, writers, journalists, community activists and other prominent members of the community. Minni Kalra did a great job as the MC for the event.
PLEA President Balwant Sanghera spoke about the current situation of facilitating Punjabi in public schools across the Lower mainland. He informed everyone, that Punjabi has now become a language that is necessary for employment, specifically in Surrey. There are many employers that require that their staff learn Punjabi. Sanghera emphasized the need for the community to support the Punjabi language movement.
Surrey School trustee Garry Thind stated that the school board must adhere to provincial policies. Punjabi classes must have at least 25 students registered in order for the class to run. Last year in one particular school, a new Punjabi class was cancelled due to low enrollment.
Barj Dhahan founder of the Dhahan literature prize announced that an award would be created for students learning Punjabi. The award will be established to garner the interest of students towards Punjabi literature.
Sadhu Binning praised Canada’s exemplary multicultural society, but suggested that it should have a language policy that reflects the contemporary demographics. He said that by coincidence, Punjabi is the third largest language in the country and in present Canadian Parliament as well. Thus, this is a great time to attain recognition for our language on a federal level. He added that the laws that once prevented the immigration of Punjabis into Canada were changed. The Canadian Punjabi community has made a commendable contribution into making this a welcoming country for all. Binning concluded that as in the past Punjabi community fought for immigration rights here, it should do the same for language rights in the present.
Surrey Member of Parliament Randeep Sarai who was born in Canada shared that he learned to speak Punjabi at home with the encouragement of his parents. He then continued learning at the Gurdwara and even went on to learn to read and write Punjabi at UBC. Sarai affirmed that Punjabi is the third most common language in Parliament. In April all of the Punjabi Members of Parliament will collaborate to hold a religious and cultural program. In regards for changes to be made to the language policy, Sarai said that it is a long and difficult process.
Gurdial Singh Neel and Swaranjit Kaur Neel were honoured by PLEA during this year’s celebration, for their immense contribution to Punjabi language. Harman Pandher a PLEA board member and also a Burnaby school trustee introduced the Neels to the audience. Pandher spoke about how the couple had taught Punjabi from 1971-1985 at Vancouver Khalsa Diwan Society, Ross Street and then later at David Thomson school. Gurdial Singh also played an integral part in establishing the Punjabi Chair at UBC. The Neels advised parents to speak in Punjabi with their children at home.
During this program, students learning Punjabi shared poems and speeches. Prabhjot Singh read two poems called, “My mother tongue” and “Books.” Grade 5 and 6 students, Jasmeet Sidhu, Isha Gill, Giya Gill, Sukhman Sandhu, Simrat Sidhu and Seva Pandher from Beaver Creek Elementary School all read poems. Sargun Kaur from LA Matheson shared a speech and students Jasmilan Gill and Hardeep Rai from Kwantlen Polytechnic University recited a very enthusiastic rendition of revolutionary poet Paash’s poem, “We will fight comrade.”
Paul Binning who is an active member of PLEA thanked Sharon Lally for her behind the scenes contributions to PLEA events. At the end Balwant Sanghera thanked the audience and PLEA Board members, Sadhu Binning, Paul Binning, Parvinder Dhariwal, Parabjot Kaur, Ranbir Johal, Daya Johal, Harman Pandher and Rajinder Pandher. He also extended a heartfelt thank you to Jas Binning for all of her help and support for PLEA, along with Sukhi and Sharon Lally for taking care of the tea preparations. Sanghera concluded the program by acknowledging Punjabi media and Sikh academies and Gurdwaras for their contribution towards the progression and promotion of the Punjabi language. He also thanked BC NDP MLA’s Harry Bains and Bruce Ralston for attending the event.
Balwant Sanghera/ President, Punjabi Language Education Association