By Balwant Sanghera
VANCOUVER: Well, another year is over. As usual, the predictions about the end of the world on December 21 (according to the Mayan calendar) didn’t materialize as. The Mayan culture was great. It is very unfortunate that the name of this once proud culture is being associated with such gloom-and-doom predictions. Anyway, life goes on and a brand new year, 2013, is here and it is time to reflect on the year gone by.
Internationally, Barack Obama’s re-election as president of the United States was a major development. At one time, it was reported that Obama was more popular in Canada and elsewhere than in his own country, the United States. Obama’s response to the Wisconsin Sikh Temple tragedy was commendable. The way the Americans responded to the massacre at the Wisconsin Gurdwara won the hearts and minds of Sikhs around the globe. This tragedy was just one of so many others that took place throughout the world. However, some stand out more than others.
Take for example, the way two teenage girls captured the world’s attention in an unprecedented way. Fifteen-year-old Malala Yousefzai, in Pakistan’s war ravaged region, stood up to the Talibans for the right of girls to be educated. She nearly lost her life. Malala is still recovering in a Birmingham hospital from the brutal attack on her life. The courage of her convictions stands out as an excellent example for others. Similarly, in this corner of the world, a young Coquitlam girl, Amanda Todd, a victim of bullying, was unable to withstand the onslaught of this scourge. However, her unfortunate and untimely death shook up the whole nation. Canadians were furious. The matter even reached the floor of the Canadian parliament. The awareness caused by Amanda’s death has resulted in a number of measures to combat bullying.
The Indo-Canadian community has also been much in the news throughout 2012. The community again lost a number of its young people to drugs, gangs and violence. In fact, we have lost close to 170 young men to gangs, drugs and violence since the early 1990s. Various organizations in the community have been working tirelessly to keep our young people out of trouble. These efforts seem to be making a difference. It appears that fewer young Indo-Canadians are now choosing this path. It is an encouraging sign. However, still a lot more needs to be done in this regard.
As parents/caregivers and a community, we need to continue to prevent our youth from getting into inappropriate activities. At the same time, the Indo-Canadian media should also continue its efforts in this regard. Even one life lost is one too many.
There is no doubt that our community has become very powerful and visible in this country. As such, it has become an important player in local, provincial and federal politics. We can be rightly proud of our community’s accomplishments during the past 125 years since its arrival in Canada.
Today, members of our community are excelling in every field, be it politics, business, sports, technology, journalism or technology. Consequently, politicians of all political parties and stripes are bending backwards to cater to the community. Visits by Canadian politicians to India are one example of this.
In this regard, it was great to see our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper visit India in November. Harper’s special interest in visiting Chandigarh and Anandpur Sahib was well appreciated by Indo-Canadians in general and Punjabis in particular. Also, the tumultuous welcome accorded to Harper and his delegation especially by the people of Punjab, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and his government was just amazing. It has created a lot of goodwill between India and Canada.
Another major development in 2012 was the release of Statistics Canada census results. It indicated that Canada has become a truly multilingual country with more than 200 different languages spoken throughout the country. These latest figures have placed Punjabi as the third most spoken language (after the two official languages English and French), with 460,000 speakers, in Canada. The three provinces with large Punjabi populations continue to be British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta. B.C. continues to be the major centre of Punjabi speakers who number 193,000 with Ontario at 173,000 and Alberta with 50,000. This is great news for the well-wishers of Punjabi.
All in all, 2012 had its share of violence, tragedies and natural as well as man-made disasters. At the same time, there were a lot of things to celebrate. Thus, it can be called a year with mixed blessings. Let’s extend a very warm welcome to a brand new 2013. Happy New Year!
(Balwant Sanghera is a British Columbia-based community leader and retired school psychologist who has been honoured with the Order of British Columbia and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal)