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S Vancouver PLEA, association celebrate
"International Mother Language Day Celebration"

Vancouver, Feb 25, 2007
Balwant Sanghera

Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA) had a very successful International Mother Language Day celebration on Sunday, February 25 at Ravi Banquet Hall in Surrey. It was a very well attended function.

One of PLEA’s Board members, Aman Taggar opened the function with an impressive slide presentation about the sad state of Punjabi in Punjab. The province, which is supposed to be the leading promoter of Punjabi, seems to pay very little attention to this issue.

As PLEA president, I had the privilege of giving a brief overview of the successes and challenges facing PLEA here in BC. It is a matter of great pride for our community that due to our joint efforts, Punjabi language classes are being offered in various elementary and secondary schools as well as colleges and universities in British Columbia.

PLEA vice president Sadhu Binning made an impassioned plea to the community in general and the Indo-Canadian politicians in particular to start the process for getting our mother language Punjabi the landed immigrant status in Canada. He stressed that it is very unfortunate that despite our community’s contribution for more than one hundred ten years in this country, our language is still considered as a foreign language.

The person who was one of the leading figures in getting Punjabi the official status as a second language in BC’s public schools, Moe Sihota, kept the audience spellbound by describing his personal experiences in this regard. The former cabinet minister and one of the most popular members of our community, urged the community to fully get involved in promoting Punjabi. As a token of its appreciation, representatives of PLEA presented Mr. Sihota with a plaque honoring his contribution to the Punjabi language.

Other speakers included Mr. Ashok Kumar, Consul General of India. Who emphasized that our mother language Punjabi is a very rich language and we should all take pride in it. Deputy Consul General Zile Singh stressed that a person may learn various languages but he/she always dreams in his/her mother language. Mr. Zile Singh also emphasized the importance of learning / promoting ones mother language. Recent immigrant from India and an educator,Harminder Sharma, expressed his concerns and stated that one needs to find the root cause as to why a lot of students in Punjab’s colleges and universities prefer to take languages other than Punjabi.

Canadian born and raised Punjabi teacher and an active member of PLEA,Ranbir Kaur Johal, expressed her disappointment about some of the criticism leveled against people who can’t speak Punjabi very well. She suggested that any constructive criticism is healthy.

However, we must keep in mind that we don’t discourage people too much. Well- known writer/poet Mr. Harchand Singh Bagri and very talented Bhatia sisters-Gurleen and Sukhleen entertained the audience with beautiful poetry and songs.

The second part of the program consisted of a panel discussion chaired by another PLEA member and educator, Sukhwant Hundal. The panel members were very well known local Punjabi media personalities. They were: Mr.Harjinder Singh Thind (RadioRed FM), Mr. Dilbar Kang (Channel M), Mr.Gurbinder Singh Dhaliwal (Radio Sher e Punjab), Mr. Gurpreet Singh (Radio India) and Ms.Rupinder Kaur Hayer-Bains (Indo-Canadian Times). All of them presented excellent suggestions for promoting Punjabi in BC and elsewhere. PLEA is very thankful to them and every other Indo-Canadian media outlet for their on-going support.

Also, we are very thankful to the management and staff of Ravi Banquet Hall for their assistance in making this function possible. On behalf of PLEA, I would also like to thank Paul and Jas Binning and the Deepak binning Foundation for their financial as well as physical support all the time.

Finally, PLEA is very thankful to so many of its volunteers and the community for their on-going support and encouragement.

Balwant Sanghera
President, Punjabi Language Education Association