News East West
TORONTO: Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, her Cabinet colleagues and parliamentarians joined the Indo-Canadian community in celebrating Diwali here as her government has decided to declare October as Hindu Heritage Month.
Lighting the traditional diya along with Indian consul general Dinesh Bhatia, the Ontario Premier said Diwali is the embodiment of India’s rich spiritual heritage and enlightenment.
Clad in a red saree to match the colourful occasion, the Ontario Premier said the festival of lights comes at the right time in Canada “when it starts to get dark and cold. We need Diwali to show us light at the other end of winter.’’
The Premier, who took a trade mission to India earlier this year, said, “When I travelled to India earlier this year, I was inspired by the spirituality of its people…The very personal and individualized pursuit of peace and enlightenment… And the large, colourful gatherings and celebrations that bring communities together. This deep spirituality had an impact on me. And I was better able to appreciate it because I have seen it reflected in Diwali celebrations across Ontario for years.’’
She said, “Diwali is a time when we are asked to make a choice between light and dark… But what does that choice mean in our day-to-day lives? For me, it means choosing knowledge over ignorance… Acceptance over intolerance.’’
The Ontario Premier said, “Since the first Indian immigrants arrived more than 100 years ago, you have helped to build a place that is growing more dynamic every day. To celebrate these many contributions, we proclaimed April as Sikh Heritage Month and October as Islamic Heritage Month.
“And yesterday, we introduced a new bill that would name October as Hindu Heritage Month — coinciding with the time of year festivals that members of the Hindu community celebrate, like Diwali and Navratri.’’
Stressing the role of the Indian diaspora in fostering deep bonds between India and Canada, she said whenever she met someone in India he or she knew someone in Ontario and Canada. “New partnerships have emerged from my visit to India and we are going to continue relationship building,’’ the Premier said.
Greeting the diaspora community in Canada, Indian consul general Dinesh Bhatia lauded the Indian community for keeping alive India’s age-old traditions such as Diwali alive in Canada.
“Celebrating festivals and other activities together with the community creates a better understanding of India’s rich cultural heritage and provides an opportunity for the members of the community, especially the younger generation, to stay connected with their roots,’’ the Indian consul general said.
Anu Srivastava, chairperson of Panorama India, which is the umbrella organizations of Indian cultural associations and organized this Diwali event, welcomed the Canadian leaders in joining the celebrations.
Ontario minister Dipika Damerla, MPPs Vic Dhillon, Harinder Malhi, Indira Naidoo-Harris, Shafiq Qaadri and Mississauga mayor Bonnie Crombie also joined in the Diwali celebrations.
Ontario is home to over 700,000 of the 1.2-million-strong Indian diaspora in Canada.