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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PLEA’s 13th IMLD Photos

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PLEA’s Thirteenth Annual IMLD


PLEA Feb.27,2016.Poster.Eng








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 Sadhu Binning

(This is an updated version of an article I wrote at the time of 2004 Federal Election. As far as the situation of Punjabi language recognition at the federal level is concerned, nothing has changed. Since then we have gone through the elections of 2006, 2008 and 2011. Here we are with another one in 2015. Some people and organizations like PLEA in Vancouver have tried to raise this issue on various occasions, especially during the federal elections. We feel it is important to continue with these efforts with the hope that one day the federal government of Canada will pay attention to the importance of other languages in this proudly multicultural country. – Author’s Note)

Another Canadian Federal election is in the process. As in the past many elections, people from the Punjabi community are fully immersed in it. In the greater Vancouver area, especially in Surrey, close to a dozen candidates of Punjabi heritage, representing major political parties have entered the field. The situation in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and other large centres is the same. Wherever Punjabis live in significant numbers, they are working to make some Punjabi candidate or helping someone close to the community successful.

Punjabis are contributing enormous sums of money to political parties and offering all kinds of resources and energy to elections. They are raising funds, preparing voter lists, putting up signs, knocking on doors or working the phones. In their homes or at workplaces, people are arguing in favour of their political party’s platform. Big ads are appearing or will start to appear (this time the campaign period is unusually long) in Punjabi newspapers, radio and TV will devote countless hours to election talk. And in all of these activities, they are using Punjabi language. In many places, like Surrey, where Punjabi candidates are running for different parties, the use of Punjabi language is dominant over English. While its exact use may vary in different places, one thing is certain: Punjabi is being used extensively in the current Canadian election campaign as it has been in many previous elections.

However, the reality is that Punjabi is still officially considered a foreign language in Canada.

The respect given to different cultures in Canada is what makes this country unique in the world. This is indeed a remarkable quality and we as Canadians are justly proud of it. Canada’s Multiculturalism is seen as a model in the world. The reality, however, is that multiculturalism in Canada has not advanced beyond a certain stage in the last forty-five years. It is a well-known and accepted fact that no culture can survive without its language. Language is the essential ingredient in the survival of a culture. Yet Canada’s multicultural structure is steadfastly against recognizing any language as Canadian other than its two official languages, English and French.

While in 2004, Punjabi was the sixth most spoken language in Canada, according to the 2011 census, it is listed as the third most spoken language (let me repeat THE THIRD MOST SPOKEN LANGUAGE) in Canada. It has existed here for more than a century and it is not only spoken in the homes but at thousands of workplaces across the country. As a result ,the Punjabi language has contributed immensely to the development of this country, especially British Columbia. To deny Punjabi the recognition of this contribution, and to say that it is not a Canadian language is a form of discrimination known in social sciences as Lingucism. We recognize the fact that with the exception of the two official languages of Canada, all other languages are considered foreign. Should this issue not be raised simply because all languages are treated the same or discriminated against? This is indeed a very complex matter and one that has everyone afraid to talk about it, especially politicians.

In comparison to other languages, the situation of Punjabi is different and consequently, has different needs. Being official languages in their respective countries most other languages receive support to develop and expand in Canada. The proud speakers of those languages themselves contribute necessary resources for the development of their language in Canada. Perhaps for them, comparatively, it is not essential that their languages be recognized in Canada. They themselves give more recognition and respect to their language and look after all its needs. The situation of Punjabi is entirely different. Punjabi is the twelfth most spoken language in the world with some 150 million speakers living in 125 countries around the globe. Yet there is no one single state that is concerned about it. Its speakers consider it less important than religion in conserving their culture. As a community, we continue to suffer from the colonial hangover and consider Punjabi irrelevant in our lives. Consequently, Punjabi needs help to survive and develop in Diaspora. If it is officially recognized in Canada, we in PLEA (Punjabi Language Education Association) believe, it will create more respect for the language among its speakers and also the state, to some extent, will become responsible for it. Punjabi was accepted as one of the six languages to be taught as second language in BC schools in 1994. This has opened many other doors for its development since.

Elections are good times to raise such issues. The question should be put to at least the Punjabi candidates: What will they do to get Punjabi some recognition at the national level in Canada? This language also belongs to all of the candidates of Punjabi heritage including Jinny Sims, Jasbir Sandhu, Amandeep Nijjar and Bill Sundhu (NDP); Sukh Dhaliwal, Randeep Sarai, Harjit Sajjan and Jati Sidhu (Liberal); Nina Grewal, Harpreet Singh, Sucha Thind and Liv Grewal (Conservative). These are the BC candidates in the present election and dozens other are running across the country. Since most of them are using the Punjabi language in their campaigning, the well-being of this language should also be their responsibility.

No one claims this to be a simple matter and it may take a long time to get Punjabi recognized in Canada. But it should at least become an item on someone’s agenda during the election. For example, in a Municipal elections one of the main parties contesting the Vancouver School Board did put Punjabi language on their agenda and issued a press release. Aa a result the issue was briefly discussed in the media at the time. We hope that political parties or at least the candidates from the Punjabi community will take the step and make it an issue in their campaign.

One thing that should be made clear is that we are not demanding that Punjabi should be placed at par with English or French; nor are we saying that we do not accept Canada’s official languages. We fully respect these languages and their historic place and rights in Canada. The knowledge of English language is essential for surviving not only in Canada but also anywhere in the world. Recognizing this fact, a huge amount of money is spent in teaching and developing English in Canada. No one has any issue with that. The only thing we are asking for is that Punjabi should also be recognized for its contribution to the development of this country and a penny or two from our tax dollars should also be spent on this language. We believe that this is a reasonable demand.

As a community we have lived here for 120 years. We have come a long way from the day Komagata Maru was sent away from Vancouver. The Punjabi community is an integral part of Canadian society now. Yet we have not achieved much for our language in this society. We have been very successful in helping our relatives and friends to come to Canada and permanently settle here. Is it not time that we should also make an effort to have landed status for our mother language Punjabi as well?

Sadhu Binning

Vice President, PLEA

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