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Balwant Singh Sanghera: Surrey, BC, Canada


Promoting Punjabi in Canada

Surrey, Vancouver, Aug 22, 2010
Balwant Sanghera President,
Punjabi Language Education

Recently, our community was honoured with the visit from India of three very special guests who have made considerable contribution to the promotion of Punjabi. Dr.Deepak Manmohan Singh is a prominent scholar of Punjabi language and literature. He has taught at the Punjab University, Chandigarh. and retired about three years ago as Dean of Faculty of Languages at the university. Currently, Deepak is serving as Director of World Punjabi Centre, Punjabi University, and Patiala.

Similarly, Baljit Balli, a well known and admired Punjabi journalist, has served with the prominent newspaper Ajit for almost twenty five years. His contribution to Punjabi language and journalism is second to none. Last year, Baljit took over a position as special advisor to PTC Television. He is also a regular contributor from Punjab to the Punjabi edition of OMNI news. Gurbhajan Singh Gill is a very well known and respected poet. He has worked on cultural front for many years. Gurbhajan has been involved with the Punjabi Sahit Academy, Ludhiana for more than 20 years. Currently, he is serving as its president. Professionaly, Gurbhajan Gill is in the public relations department of Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana and also edits Changi Kheti.

The Central Association of Punjabi Writers of BC honoured all three of these prominent figures at Paul Brars Bombay Banquet Hall in Surrey. A lot of their friends and well wishers also graced the occasion. All of these special guests commended the Punjabi community in Canada as well promoters of Punjabi. They spoke highly about the efforts being made here in promoting Punjab language. It was very gratifying to hear from these esteemed gentlemen recognizing the work being done here to promote our mother tongue.

Promoters and well wishers of Punjabi in Canada welcome this kind of recognition in order to work even harder in making this language as one of the most prominent ones here in Canada. In this context, Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA Canada) has been working hard for more than seventeen years. Along with various other organizations, individuals and the Indo-Canadian media, PLEA has been very successful in getting Punjabi classes under way in numerous BC public schools, colleges and universities. Furthermore, PLEA has been instrumental in getting Punjabi signage in various public and private institutions including city halls, hospitals, airports, skytrains etc. Efforts are already under way to have signage in Punjabi at airports like Abbotsford, Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto.

PLEA would like the service industry to provide services in Punjabi wherever there is a significant Punjabi consumer base. Take for example, some of the airlines, which have a significant proportion of their passengers of Punjabi heritage. In cases like those, it is in the airlines own best interest to serve those passengers in their own language. That will include having Punjabi newspapers, books, movies and magazines on board and hiring Punjabi-speaking staff. Also, it would make sense to provide such passengers Punjabi food as well. Initiatives like these are bound to make the airline more popular with the Punjabi community. At the same time, it will provide more jobs to Punjabi speaking employees. It is a win-win situation for all concerned. Punjabis as consumers should also start asking for such services in Punjabi.Airline industry is just one example. There are whole bunch of industries especially in areas like Metro Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Metro Toronto where opportunities for such services are unlimited.

There is a lot of power in numbers. Punjabis make up a fairly large proportion of the population in these regions. As a matter of fact, it is likely that the Punjabi population in Canada at this time is between 700,000 and 800,000. This is a very strong consumer base. Speaking of numbers, the 2011 census is just around the corner. Though the federal government has decided to dispense with the long form, yet under some pressure, it has agreed to include the question about ones mother tongue in the short form. In the 2006 census, it was noted that there were around 165,000 Punjabi speakers in the Metro Vancouver area and 367,505 in all of Canada. Since then, Punjabi population has grown considerably. As such, it is incumbent upon all of the Punjabi speakers to ensure that they are counted in. They must make every effort in identifying language spoken at home as Punjabi.This is the least a person can do for his/her mother tongue.





Balwant Sanghera
President, Punjabi Language Education Association . He is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist in British Columbia ,Canada.