[lg policy] British Columbia: PLEA’s 13th Annual International Mother Language Day celebration

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Tue Mar 8 16:22:35 UTC 2016

PLEA’s 13th Annual International Mother Language Day celebration

Businessman Barj Dhahan to establish an award for students learning Punjabi*

** MP Randeep Sarai says Punjabi MPs will hold religious and cultural
program in April*

*THE* Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA) celebrated their 13th
annual International Mother Language day event on February 27 at the North
Delta Recreation Centre. The audience was comprised of students, teachers,
writers, journalists, community activists and others.

PLEA President Balwant Sanghera spoke about the current situation of
facilitating Punjabi in public schools across the Lower Mainland. He noted
that Punjabi has now become a language that is necessary for employment,
especially 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 most spoken language in the country and in the current 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 said that as in the past the Punjabi community had fought for
immigration rights, it should now do the same for language rights.

Surrey MP Randeep Sarai, who was born in Canada, said 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 and added that in April, all the Punjabi MPs will
collaborate to hold a religious and cultural program. In regard to changes
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 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.” Minni Kalra was the MC for the event.

Paul Binning, an active member of PLEA, thanked Sharon Lally for her
behind-the-scenes contributions to PLEA events. 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. NDP MLAs Harry Bains and Bruce Ralston also attended the


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