International Mother Language Day (Feb. 28, 2015)

 |With Thanks from LINK 

International Mother’s Day Celebrated Around The Globe


International Mother Language Day (IMLD) is celebrated around the globe on February 21. As a result of lobbying by a number of countries led by Bangla Desh, UNESCO had declared February 21 as the IMLD on November17, 1999. Since then, this day is celebrated around the globe with a great deal of enthusiasm by people honouring their mother language.

Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA) has been celebrating IMLD for the past twelve years. This year again, PLEA, along with a large number of well-wishers of Punjabi, celebrated this event on Saturday, February 21 at the North Delta Recreation Centre in Delta. The audience included large number students, teachers, writers, journalists, community activists and other prominent members of the community.

PLEA’s Board members Paul Binning, Parvinder Dhariwal, Parabjot Kaur, Jasmilan Lehal, Dayah Johal,Ranbir Johal,Harmohanjit Pandher, Sadhu Binning, Rajinder Pandher and other  numerous  helpers and volunteers did an excellent job in ensuring that everything went smoothly. Bhupinder Lalli and her family were kind enough to provide tea and mouthwatering refreshments. PLEA’s youngest Board member and Kwantlen Polytechnic University student Parabjot Kaur with guidance from Parvinder Dhariwal and Jasmilan did a great  job as the MC. This year, an exciting development worth note was the proclamation of declaring February 21 as the International Mother Language Day by the Lieutenant Governor and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of BC. For this, PLEA is very thankful to the provincial government and hopes that it will also financially support teaching of Punjabi in our public schools.

The program started with two melodious Gurdas Mann songs sung by talented singer Hardeep Virk. I had the honour of welcoming the guests and giving an update about PLEA’s successes and challenges. On the plus side, PLEA, along with the well-wishers of Punjabi ,can be proud of a number of accomplishments over the years. As a result of our efforts, Punjabi classes are under way in various elementary and secondary schools in British Columbia. In addition to that, Punjabi is being taught at the University of British Columbia,Kwantlen Polytechnic University and University of the Fraser Valley. Hopefully, Punjabi classes will also resume at Simon Fraser University before long. In Canada , Punjabi now has the honour of being the third most spoken language after English and French. In cities like Surrey, Abbotsford and Brampton Punjabi is the second most spoken language after English.

Due to a very large consumer base of Punjabis, Punjabi is being embraced not only by various government agencies but also by the corporate sector. It is great to see signs like “We Speak Punjabi” at various hospitals, city halls, public places, businesses and agencies. Our Vancouver International Airport has the unique distinction of having Punjabi signage and providing services in Punjabi . Insurance Corporation of BC’s recently  instituted   claim service in Punjabi and OMNI TV’s national hockey broadcast in Punjabi are great developments. PLEA has approached a number of airlines to provide services in Punjabi on their  flights from Vancouver,Calgary,Edmonton and Toronto. Hopefully, if enough Punjabi passengers advocate such services the airlines might be able to oblige. Similarly, PLEA is very pleased about increasing signage in Punjabi by the business community.

PLEA was very pleased to have a large number of well-wishers of Punjabi join it for the celebration. Surrey Newton MLA Harry Bains has been one of our strongest  supporters . He took the time out of his busy schedule to bring greetings, congratulate PLEA  and offer his continued support. Similarly, newly elected member of the Surrey Board of Education , Gurpreet (Garry )Thind assured PLEA of his on-going commitment to promoting Punjabi in the Surrey School District. Students of Punjabi classes, Aionroop Kaur, Navdeep Kooner, Biantveer Dhillon and Mohjeet Chhina, thrilled the packed hall with their beautiful Punjabi poems and songs. OMNI TV’s veteran reporter/anchor Dilbar Kang emphasized the job opportunities in Canada in general and Metro Vancouver in particular for individuals well versed in Punjabi.  He stated that at OMNI TV alone there are close to ten journalists who are working there as a result of their command of the Punjabi language as well as their abilities in journalism.

Sadhu Binning briefly described the provincial language policy, its strengths and shortcomings. He was joined by three Surrey teachers-Gurpreet Kaur Bains (LA Matheson) , Amandeep Kaur Chhina(Princess Margaret) and Harmohanjit Singh Pandher(Beaver Creek)to comment on the policy and offer  suggestions for improvement. All of them did an excellent job in emphasizing the importance of Punjabi and challenges facing them in schools. They  were very optimistic about the future of Punjabi and  made a number of very valuable suggestions to promote it.

The formal presentations were followed by a question and answer session. A number of prominent members of the community made excellent suggestions for PLEA and the community. The speakers included poet Mohinderdeep Singh Grewal, Balwinder Singh Chahal, Sukhwant Hundal, Col Hajit Singh Bassi, Brigadier Nasseb Singh Heer, Raj Gill, Barjinder Dhillon and many others.

On behalf of PLEA I would like to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to the Deepak Binning Foundation for its continued support. This year, Khalsa Credit Union(KCU) has also been kind enough to make a substantial financial contribution for this celebration. I would like to offer my thanks to the KCU Board and management for its support. Of course, we are always very thankful to the South Asian media –both electronic and print –for its continued support. All of the Punjabi newspapers as well the community’s English newspapers, including The LINK, have been very generous in conveying PLEA‘s message to the community. Our TV outlets including OMNI Punjabi, Des Pardes, Sur Sagar TV and many others have been very kind in their on-going support. Our radio stations have also done a marvelous job in conveying PLEA’s message to our community. For this we are very thankful to all of them including Radio Red FM 93.1, Mediawaves 1600 AM, Radio KRPI 1550AM, Spice Radio 1200 AM,Sur Sagar Radio Gurbani Channel 91.5 FM , My FM 106.9FM and many others.

PLEA has been actively promoting Punjabi for more than twenty years. During this time, there have been various successes as well as challenges. However, overall, we have come a long way in promoting Punjabi not only in BC’s public schools but also at the post-secondary level and the community-at-large. These efforts have gained wide recognition not only in Canada but also in many other parts of the world including Punjab. This is a great credit to the community. With its limited resources, PLEA can do only so much. However, collectively we can accomplish a lot. In this context, I would like to urge/invite all well-wishers of Punjabi not only in Canada but also around the globe to act as ambassadors for our mother language in promoting it.

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PLEA’s 15th Annual International Mother Language Day Pictures

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PLEA’s 15th Annual International Mother Language Day Celebration

PLEA’s 15th Annual Mother Language Day

Parvinder Dhariwal

Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA) held its 15th annual Mother Language Day celebration on January 20th at the North Delta Recreation Centre. The program consisted of important discussions about the implementation of Punjabi language teaching in more public schools in Surrey. Along with various speakers who discussed the important issues, a large number of students participated with their poems, songs and speeches. The program was mc’d by Parabjot Singh.

PLEA President Balwant Sanghera welcomed the attendees and stated that this year’s main focus is to encourage the parents to enroll their children in grade 5 Punjabi classes. He said that there are several elementary schools in Surrey where it is possible to have Punjabi classes due to the large number of Punjabi students in those schools. This year’s keynote speaker Jag Khosa, a police officer and a prominent community activist spoke about the importance of teaching children Punjabi. He emphasized how crucial it is to speak Punjabi with children at home from a young age. In detail, Khosa highlighted just how much of an asset Punjabi is to him in his professional life. He also stated that along with teaching children Punjabi, parents should take the opportunity to learn English and have libraries in their homes. Prominent Punjabi scholar Dr. Sadhu Singh stated that sectarianism has caused the most harm to the Punjabi language. While speaking about the richness of the Punjabi language he enthralled the audience by reading a passage about colours from his book called “Punjabi Boli Di Virast (The Heritage of the Punjabi Language).” UBC Punjabi Instructor Sukhwant Hundal spoke in detail about significance of Punjabi Wikipedia. He requested that the Punjabi community should contribute to the site, as there is a need for content. Hundal also spoke about a piece he has written about the site that can be accessed here:

Surrey School Trustee Gary Thind, Surrey School Teacher Rabinder Boparai and a parent representative Kewal Tagger participated in panel moderated by Sukhwant Hundal. The main points highlighted in this discussion were how to encourage parents to enroll their children in Punjabi classes.

Along with speaking about the concerns surrounding the implementation of Punjabi in the public school system, the program also featured students reading Punjabi poems, songs and speeches about issues pertaining to the Punjabi language and community. The student participants were: Aman, Tanu, Manu, Sukhman Kaimbo, Manjot Singh, Prabhleen Kaur Grewal, Sharan Sandhu, Humkirat Gill, Taran Poonia, Sunny, Simrat, Amrit, Jasnoor, Sahib, Ravleen, Smriti, Ashmeen, Parleen, Navreet, and Hardeep Virk.

PLEA honoured Gian Singh Thind and Harjinder Sangra for their contribution to the progression of the Punjabi language in Canada. While speaking about Gian Singh Thind, radio host Professor Gurvinder Singh Dhaliwal said that Thind arrived in Canada in 1953 and learned Punjabi. He then started a newspaper for the historical Khalsa Diwan Society Vancouver. While speaking about Harjinder Sangra, Sadhu Binning stated that Canadian born Sangra learned Punjabi and participated in plays produced by Vancouver Sath. She taught Punjabi at UBC’s continuing studies for a number of years and has been teaching Punjabi along with other subjects in Vancouver for many years.

The program concluded with Balwant Sanghera thanking the audience, Punjabi media, the students and the Surrey School Board. He also thanked PLEA members Parvinder Dhariwal, Parabjot Singh, Rajinder Pandher, Harman Pandher, Ranbir Johal, Jas Binning, Paul Binning and Sadhu Binning. Sanghera made a final appeal to parents to enroll their children in Punjabi language classes and to encourage others to do the same.

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PLEA’s 14th Annual International Mother Language Day Celebration – Pictures

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PLEA’s 14th Annual International Mother Language Day Celebration

PLEA’s 14th Annual International Mother Language Day Celebration

Balwant Sanghera

Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA) had a very successful International Mother Language Day celebration on Sunday, February 26. The 14th annual function was held at the North Delta Recreation Centre in Delta. Close to 250 attendees took the time to join us in this celebration. The program started with an impressive poem about Punjabi language by a strong promoter of Punjabi and UBC student Gurinder Mann, followed by a wonderful song “Ma Boli” by Tamanawis Secondary student Harmeet Gill. It was an honour for me as PLEA’s president to welcome the guests, recognize our Board members and give the audience an overview of PLEA’s efforts in promoting Punjabi in BC’s public schools, colleges, universities and the community. It is a great honour for me to work with very dedicated Board members of PLEA. They include Sadhu Binning, Parvinder Dhariwal, Harman Pandher, Parabhjot Kaur, Paul Binning, Ranbir Johal, Rajinder Pandher and Dayah Kaur Johal.

As part of this year’s celebration, PLEA decided to pay tribute to a great Punjabi performer and promoter of Punjabi language, Om Puri, who passed away a few months ago. PLEA’s Sadhu Binning, a close friend of Om Puri paid a very fitting tribute to this stalwart of Bollywood. Former Surrey Newton MP and promoter of Punjabi Jinny Sims commended PLEA for its efforts and urged parents to encourage their children to learn Punjabi. PLEA’s own Parabhjot Kaur emphasized the richness of Punjabi language and literature. Parvinder Dhariwal’s Kwantlen student Lang Kuoch explained the benefits of learning Punjabi. Kuoch, a Canadian of Cambodian heritage spoke about his love for Punjabi and its role in connecting with his Punjabi friends.

Every year, PLEA recognizes a prominent member of our community who has made significant contribution to Punjabi language and the community. Lumber magnate Asa Singh Johal is not only a respected pioneer of our community but also a very generous donor to a variety of causes. These include UBC, BC Children’s Hospital, and many other organizations. Mr. Johal’s generous donation to UBC has made the Punjabi classes possible there over the years. The story of Asa Singh Johal parallels the story of our community’s trials and tribulations in Canada. Mr. Johal, along with his wife Kashmir Kaur Johal and son Darshy took the time to join us on Sunday. Asa Singh Johal was warmly welcomed by the attendees. He was presented with a plaque by the organizers. Mr. Johal thanked PLEA for this honour.

Former OMNI Punjabi TV news manager and one of the voices of Hockey Night in Punjabi, Bhupinder Singh Hundal, presented an impressive picture of Hockey Night in Punjabi’s success, influence and popularity not only in the Punjabi community but also in the community at-large. He mentioned that hockey icons like Wayne Gretzky are also fans of this program and admire his team’s contribution. Bhupinder urged parents and students to be proud of their heritage and take pride in learning Punjabi. Surrey School Board Trustee Garry Thind commended PLEA for its efforts in promoting Punjabi in schools, colleges, universities and community. He pledged his full support to PLEA in this regard.
The main focus of this year’s celebration was to encourage our young students and give them the platform to share their poems, songs and essays with the audience. Here is a list of students who participated: Kamaljit Kaur Bajwa’s grade 5 students from Green Timbers Elementary School in Surrey: Sukhman Kaur Kambo and Sahib Singh Kambo, Ravinder Dhaliwal from Satnam Sangra’s New Westminster Secondary School, Harman Pandher’s grade 5 students from Beaver Creek Elementary School in Surrey: Ravleen Chharahhan, Ashmeen Sandhu, Navreet Virk, Parleen Sahota, Aarmen Sidhu, Surkhab Dhillon, Karn Sandhu. And Ravinder Parhar’s grade 6 Beaver Creek students: Gursagar Dosanjh, Guneet Jhaj, Sidakdeep Lalli, Giya Gill, and Jasmeet Sidhu.

Gurpreet Bains’ students from L.A. Matheson Secondary School in Surrey, Gurneet Kaur Sethi and Harnoor Singh entertained the audience with their lovely poems. Similarly, Amandeep Chhina’s students from Surrey’s Princess Margaret School -Loveleen walia,Ishreet Sran,Tamanpreet Behl,Prableen Rai, Ainroop Kaur- also shared their heartwarming poems with the audience. They were followed by Davinder Dhillon’s Beaver Creek grade 7 class: Rohan Verma, Sukhraj Gill, Karan Bains, Arjun Rai, Seva Pandher, Sehaj Bajwa, Gurdit Auluck, Sukhman Sandhu, Sanvi Jethi and Puneet Bhullar. Tajdeep Sandhu from Tamanawis Secondary was the final student presenter of the day.

Altogether, it was a very well attended and student focused celebration of our mother tongue Punjabi. Each one of the Participants made a commendable contribution to the success of this tribute to Punjabi. MC Harman Pandher, teacher in Surrey and School Trustee in Burnaby, did an excellent job in keeping everything on track. On behalf of PLEA I am very thankful to our media-both electronic and print- for their co-operation and support. Also, I would like to thanks Jas and Paul Binning for their on-going support and looking after the tea and refreshments on Sunday. PLEA is also very thankful to all of the well-wishers of Punjabi and volunteers including Chandra Bodalia, Makhan Tutt, Preet Binning, Navdeep Sidhu, Chandra Bodalia and Sukhwant Hundal. Finally, I would like to thank my fellow Board members, volunteers and the community for their on-going encouragement and support.

Balwant Sanghera

President, Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA)

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PLEA’s 14th IMLD


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A Significant Moment for the Punjabi Language in Canada -Feb27,2016

A Significant Moment for the Punjabi Language in Canada


Sadhu Binning


There is much that needs to be done for the preservation and development of the Punjabi language in Canada. In my view, currently, it is a crucial time for the Punjabi community to work towards creating a brighter future for our language in Canada. This moment shall also pass all too quickly, without a care as to whether it was used wisely or not.

Canada is recognized as an exemplary multicultural country. All cultures are equally accepted and respected here. However, the biggest drawback of Canadian multicultural structure is the lack of recognition of other languages. It is a known fact that no culture can survive without its language. Yet, at the federal level, only two languages are recognized as official languages of Canada. As any country is at any given time, Canada is a project in the making. Once upon a time the French language faced a tough battle in attaining its due recognition in Canada. Moreover, until recently, very little attention was paid to the aboriginal languages and they too are struggling to stay alive. During the mid-twentieth century, other European languages such as Ukrainian and Italian were unsuccessful in their efforts to win their place as Canadian languages. In fact, Canada became a multicultural country in response to their demands but it did not become a multi-lingual country. Over time, the number of speakers for these languages declined and now they are no longer in a position to make such demands.

At this moment the coincidental position of Punjabi in Canada is such that the Punjabi community can make an effort to advocate some reasonable changes to Canada’s language policy. This will be a step in the right direction not only for the Punjabi language but for other minority languages as well. This is a historical moment for Punjabi language but it will not remain so for long.

Here are some facts:

  1. Punjabi has been spoken in Canada since 1897. However, until the early years of the 1980s, the Punjabi community and its language existed completely on the margins of mainstream society. Due to an increase in numbers and positive changes in Canadian society, the position of the Punjabi community has improved greatly but as far as language is concerned it is still on the margin. In the 2011 census Punjabi became the third largest spoken language in Canada following English and French.
  2. In last year’s federal election more than twenty people from the Punjabi community were elected as part of Justin Trudeau’s liberal government. As a result Punjabi has coincidentally become the third most represented language in the present parliament, and a number of key federal ministries have been given to members from Punjabi community. However, these facts on their own will not have any effect on the situation of the Punjabi language.
  3. Currently, a majority of the people within the Punjabi community are from the immigrant generation and they are using the language not only in their daily personal communication but also in their work places, businesses and in the media. The first Canadian born generation is also learning and using the language especially in large centres like Vancouver and Toronto. It is important to recognize this situation now because it will likely not be the case twenty years into the future.
  4. The development in the Punjabi media during the last three to four decades is simply mind-boggling. In every Canadian city with a sizable Punjabi community such as Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and a few other places, there are dozens of Punjabi newspapers. A number of glossy magazines, which are comparable to mainstream English magazines, are also published regularly. They include the Punjabi Gurmukhi script to advertise jewellery, clothing and other commercial items. These publications are a great achievement for the Punjabi language, not only on a national level but internationally as well.

In some ways, even more remarkable than the print media is the use of Punjabi in radio and television. In each city there are a number of local radio stations that are owned by Punjabis themselves and offer 24 hours Punjabi programs. Some cities also have local daily television shows while numerous programs are aired across the nation on Saturdays.

  1. The Sikhs are a majority in the Punjabi community of Canada. Their relation to Punjabi language differs from the Muslim and Hindu Punjabis. For example, almost every Gurdwara makes a special effort to teach Punjabi language to the younger generation. This is not the case with local Hindu temples or mosques where Punjabis form the majority of the membership.
  2. There is a vibrant community of Punjabi writers in each city. These creative individuals have published hundreds of titles in various genres during the last thirty years. A prestigious annual award for the best work of fiction in Punjabi has been established in Vancouver to recognize the vibrant literary community in the world.


In my view these are only some of the facts that place Punjabis in Canada in a suitable position to try and affect some changes to the language policy at the federal level. It is important to mention briefly that the need of the time is to have a language policy that reflects the present demographics of the country. Undoubtedly, that is a tall order and may be a lengthy process. The second suggestion could be that a formula should be created that recognizes languages according to their population and length of existence in Canada.

The present position of Punjabi will not last forever. The current Punjabi political representation could change, as can laws and policies; therefore, it is not given that immigration of Punjabis will keep on increasing. The next generations of Punjabis will not have the same relationship with Punjabi. The businesses that are at this time supporting Punjabi media will eventually start to sell their products by using mainstream media, this in turn, will directly impact the progression of Punjabi media. Although no one can predict what will happen in the future, the important thing to think about is what can be done with the current opportunities that can have a positive impact on the future of the Punjabi language.

As Canadians, we are very proud of the fact that ours is a fair and just society. This was created by fair minded people from a society that forced Komagata Maru out of Burrard Inlet a hundred years ago. There is no doubt that some people may have lost their privileged position in society but by treating all citizens equally Canada has become a better place for all to live. Similarly, if other languages are given some recognition this would certainly make Canada a much richer and inclusive place for all.

We should recognize the fact that politicians do not and cannot take on issues like these on their own. The responsibility lies with the Punjabi community who need to express their desire to see their mother tongue flourish in Canada. The time to act is now.

(Feb. 2016)

Sadhu Binning

Vice President, Punjabi Language Education Assocation



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