News East West
TORONTO: Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, his cabinet ministers and Indian diplomats joined in late Diwali celebrations with various Hindu organizations in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga on Saturday.
Organized by seniormost Indo-Canadian MP and parliamentary secretary Deepak Obhrai, it was the first collective celebration of Diwali by the ruling Conservative party in the Greater Toronto Area which comprises Mississauga and Brampton cities with a huge Indian population.
Till now celebrations by Obhrai have been held in Canada’s parliament for the past 13 years.
After lighting the traditional Diwali diya and greeting the huge gathering with Namaste and Happy Diwali, the Canadian prime minister recalled attending various Diwali celebrations but described this one as “easily the biggest and the best one yet… It’s a job very well done.’’
Praising Indo-Canadian MP Deepak Obhrai for making Diwali “a popular pan-Canadian tradition,’’ the prime minister said Diwali celebrations have become so popular in Canada “that this year, for the very first time, we’ve had to move our celebration off of the confines of Parliament Hill, all the way out of Ottawa to here in Mississauga.’’
Touching briefly upon India’s importance to Canada and his last trip there, the Canadian prime minister narrated his visit to “the beautiful Sri Someshwara Temple in Bangalore’’ and “New Delhi’s stunning Swaminarayan Temple.’’
Harper, who had inaugurated Toronto’s BAPS Mandir in 2006, said, “It is a very impressive complex that stands as a testament to the accomplishments and contributions of our Indo-Canadian community, not just in this region, but right across our vast country.’’
Praising the Indo-Canadians, the prime minister said the community “through their ingenuity, hard work and entrepreneurship are contributing to Canada’s prosperity.’’
Addressing the gathering, organizer Deepak Obhrai said, “This year we have brought the event to Toronto to give more people the opportunity to witness and appreciate the National Diwali Celebration. Toronto (area) is home to more than 150 Temples. So this is a great place for our community to share their religious and cultural heritage with fellow Canadians.’’
Obhrai said, “Today, Diwali is truly a national Canadian celebration. People have travelled from all across the country to be a part of this national celebration. We not only have people here from the Greater Toronto Area, but we have representatives from Montreal, Ottawa and from Calgary. All in all, we have over 5,000 people here today. We have more than 40 religious and community organizations & media outlets, who have come together as the sponsors of the 13th National Diwali Celebration.’’
Recalling his recent oath as a Member of the Queen’s Privy Council of Canada, Obhrai said, “I took the oath of allegiance using the Hindu holy book the Bhagavad Gita. I am proud to tell you that this was the first time the Bhagavad Gita entered Rideau Hall (equivalent to Rashtrapati Bhavan in India).’’
Among those present in the gathering were Canadian immigration Chris Alexander, multiculturalism minister Jason Kenney, MPs and Indian consul general Akhilesh Mishra.