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TORONTO: Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Indian consul general Akhilesh Mishra, legislators and prominent Indo-Canadians joined in Diwali celebrations in the provincial assembly at Queen’s Park here on Wednesday night.
Organized by Panorama India, the umbrella body of hundreds of Indo-Canadian cultural, social and faith organizations, Diwali celebrations have become an annual feature at the Ontario assembly which is also called provincial parliament.
Accompanied by Deepika Demerla, an Indo-Canadian member of provincial assembly (MPP), Ontario Premier Kathleen lighted the first diya (lamps) as a priest guided her through puja and religious ceremony to usher in Diwali at the seat of government in Ontario province which is home to over 500,000 Indo-Canadians.
In her speech, Premier Kathleen Wynne expressed her delight at the “wonderful puja’’ and greeted the Indo-Canadian community on the occasion of Diwali.
She said amid laughter that the Festival of Lights is the best thing to happen now as the winter darkness sets in Canada. She thanked Panorama India for bringing the festival to the provincial assembly.
Lauding the Hindus, Sikhs and Jains in making `invaluable contribution to Ontario,’’ the premier said there is a deep celebration of diversity in Ontario and the festival of Diwali is symbolic of that diversity in her province and Canada.
Interestingly, the premier, who was seen in her formal dress while attending a function on the assembly premises just a few minutes ago, changed into Indian dress for Diwali celebrations. In fact, she makes it a point to dress in salwar-kameez while attending Indian functions whether it is Diwali or Indian Independence Day celebrations.
Turning to Indian consul general Akhilesh Mishra, she said India and Ontario have a lot in common and “the two can do a lot together.”
Earlier, new Indian consul general Akhilesh Mishra welcomed and thanked the premier and her MPPs for joining in Diwali celebrations.
Praising Canada and Ontario for welcoming the huge diaspora and providing them the opportunities to live up their potential, Mishra said he has been overwhelmed by the generosity of Canadians.
Expressing his `very profound gratitude’ to Canada for providing such opportunities to the Indian community, the consul general said Diwali symbolizes a quest for removing darkness outside and within ourselves.
“Saints in India have said: be the light yourself. Have good will for everyone,’’ said Mishra who is a known scholar and fluently multi-lingual.
“That’s why when we celebrate Diwali, we seek blessings for everyone. Diwali is not about individual joy; it is about collective sharing of joy,’’ the Indian consul general said.
Since the consul general is fluent in many languages and has just arrived in Toronto, Indo-Canadian MPP Deepika Demerla, who coordinated the celebrations with Panorama India, said, “Mr Mishra, you have come to the right place where you can practice your language skills’’ as over 200 languages are spoken in Ontario because of immigrants from about 150 countries have made the province their home over the years.
Deepika also narrated the significance of Diwali for Sikhs as the sixth Guru Hargobind was released, along with other 52 Hindu rajas, from Gwalior fort by Mughal Emperor Jahangir. The Sikh Guru reached Amritsar on Diwali day, and Harmandir Sahib (later the Golden Temple) was lit with lamps on that occasion in the 17th century.
Earlier, Panorama India chief Jibanjit Tripathy welcomed the guests to Diwali celebrations.
In his welcome address, Tripathy said Diwali celebrations go 5,000 years back and “we wish that this festival will continue to foster the spirit of inclusiveness and promote cultural understanding in a province that is blessed with so much diversity and richness of cultures, traditions, backgrounds and histories.’’
As the premier Indian cultural organization, Tripathy said, Panorama India since 1999 has been contributing to the richness of Ontario and Canada’s diversity by educating others about India, celebrating Indian heritage with others and collaborating with others in promoting diversity.
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FACTS ABOUT ONTARIO:
- Ontario, with Toronto as its capital, is the largest of the 10 Canadian provinces or states.
- Ontario chief minister is called Premier.
- Ontario Assembly is called Ontario Provincial Parliament or simply Queen’s Park where it is situated in Toronto.
- Ontario MLAs are called Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs).
- Currently, there are five Indo-Canadian MPPs in the 107-member provincial parliament.
- Ontario is home to over 500,000 Indo-Canadians.