International Mother Language Day celebrated by PLEA

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Surrey: Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA) had a very successful International Mother Language Day (IMLD) Celebration on Sunday, February 23.  This 17th Annual IMLD attracted a large number of well-wishers of Punjabi language to Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Spruce Building Atrium. The event was held in partnership with KPU and Deepak Binning Foundation (DBF). KPU’s Steve Lewarne and DBF’s Paul Binning greeted and thanked the attendees before passing on the mic to young singer Rajveer Singh Kaler, a graduate of Princess Margaret Secondary school. Rajveer entertained the audience with two beautiful songs. L.A. Matheson teacher and an active Board member of PLEA, Parabjot Kaur, did an excellent job in putting things to-gether and acting as MC of the function.

The main focus of this year’s IMLD was to encourage students of all age groups from elementary to post- secondary levels to share their stories, poems and songs with the audience. Before inviting the students onto stage, it was an honour for me as PLEA’s President to welcome attendees, introduce our Board members, and highlight the achievements and challenges of PLEA over the past few years.   Punjabi has now become a prominent language not only in Canada but also around the globe. Out of 7,000 languages officially recognized by UNESCO, Punjabi ranks 10th from top. It is spoken by 150 million people world- wide in more than 170 countries. Here, in Metro Vancouver, Abbotsford, Calgary, Edmonton, and Brampton etc. Punjabi has now become the language of employment. City Halls, hospitals, businesses, government and non-government agencies proudly display the signs: “We speak Punjabi”.

It is very encouraging to note that a large number of schools and post-secondary institutions offer classes in Punjabi. However, getting enough students to enroll in Punjabi classes in some places even with large populations of Punjabi speakers is still a big challenge for us. Certainly, we have made huge strides in this regard however; still we have a lot more to do. PLEA is fully committed to keep working hard in promoting Punjabi.  In this context, it was great to see a large number of students join us and participate. It was a joy listen to the students recite their poems, songs and stories in Punjabi.  The audience seemed to thoroughly enjoy listening to the students.  Here is a list of students who participated:

Bhaveen Kaur Gill( Cindrich Elementary), Sukhman Kaur Kambo (Enver Creek Secondary ), Sahib Singh Kambo (Green Timbers), Mehakpreet Kaur Dhaliwal (Semiahmoo Secondary), Sahajpreet Kaur Dhaliwal (Guru Angad Dev Elementary), Avneet  Kaur Samra (Princess Margaret Secondary, Second Place Story Winner), Gurleen Kaur (L.A.Matheson Secondary, Third Place Story Winner), Harlaj Kaur (Khalsa Secondary, Third Place Poem Winner), Amreen Kaur Aulakh (Khalsa Secondary, First Place Poem Winner), Gurnoor Kaur Aulakh (Khalsa Secondary, Secondary, Second  Place Poem Winner) and Gurnoor Kaur (Princess Margaret, First Place Story Winner). All of the participants were given certificates of participation. The winners of the story and poem contests were provided with gift bags including cash prizes donated by the DBF. The students were also given over 150 books donated by prominent writers and poets: Sadhu Binning, Mohan Gill, Rajinder Pandher, Harchand Singh  Bagri and Mrs. Davinder Kaur Johal.

The audience thoroughly enjoyed the poems, stories and songs by students along with refreshments. On behalf of PLEA I am very thankful to all of them, their parents, teachers and the judges – Amrik Plahi, Kuwinder Chand and Surinder Kaur Brar.  Also, I am very thankful to all of the donors, volunteers and everyone who contributed to the success of the 17th IMLD.

During the past few months, the Punjabi community has lost some of its most respected and prominent writers. They include Jaswant Singh Kanwal, Dr. Dalip Kaur Tiwana, Inder Singh Khamosh, Dr. Surjit Hans and many more. PLEA is very thankful to all of them for their very valuable contribution to Punjabi language and literature and pays tribute to them.

Special guests Garry Thind, member of the Board of School Trustees, Surrey and Shauna Ross, Director of Instruction for Surrey’s Language Programs shared their views about Punjabi in Surrey School District. They were thanked for their on-going support and co-operation. Dr. Sadhu Singh also shared his thoughts about Punjabi language. PLEA Vice President Sadhu Binning concluded the function by thanking the students, audience, Indo-Canadian media, KPU and DBF for their on-going support. He urged the community to continue to work towards getting Punjabi its due place in Canada. The celebration concluded with a group picture of the attendees.

Balwant Sanghera