Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA) Celebrated 19th Annual International Mother Language Day
By Gurinder Mann
On February 27, 2022, Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA) celebrated their 19th Annual International Mother Language Day event on Zoom. Alongside active members of PLEA, supporters of Punjabi language joined from other parts of Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. For more than three hours, Dr. Kamaljit Kambo very eloquently led the program as MC, sharing beautiful poetry throughout the event.
The event began with Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s (KPU) Director, Steve Lewarne recognizing we were on the unceded territory of the First Nations people. He confirmed KPU’s commitment to continue to support Punjabi language in partnership with the Deepak Binning Foundation. Balwant Singh Sanghera welcomed all guests and introduced the active members of PLEA, including Dr. Sadhu Binning, Paul Binning, Gurinder Mann, Rajinder Singh Pandher, Harman Pandher, Dayah Johal, Dr. Ranbir Johal, Dr. Kamaljit Kambo, Parabhjot Kaur, and Dr. Inder Mann. He briefly shared information about activities being led by PLEA and made an appeal to parents to enrol their children in Punjabi classes, so that Punjabi can be taught in additional schools.
Selma Smith, representing Surrey School District stressed they stand with the Punjabi community and support their efforts to teach Punjabi in schools. Dr. Sadhu Binning, Vice President of PLEA emphasized that at times we fail to consider the positive initiatives happening to support Punjabi and become discouraged; he stressed that the work done by other organizations on this International Mother Language Day validates that Punjabis are concerned about issues related to their language. He also shared that we need to request changes to Canada’s federal policy regarding language, so that other languages besides English and French may be recognized.
Punjabi Teacher, Prabhjot Kaur, shared details about the collaboration between L.A. Matheson school and the Dhahan family and discussed the annual youth prize competition. She highlighted that seven story writers are awarded $500 each, and the Punjabi stories are translated into English and French and published as a collection.
Dr. Gurnam Singh Dhillon from Toronto, Dalbir Singh from Edmonton, Sukhbir Singh Grewal from Calgary, Dr. Harjit Singh Grewal from Calgary/Edmonton, and Gurinder Mann from Vancouver participated in the panel discussion. In addition to sharing details about their own efforts, these panelists discussed details about Punjabi teaching in their respective regions. Through the discussion it became apparent that although the situation is different in every region, there are efforts being made in all areas. A shared concern that came to light was the fact that there appears to be a lack of interest among parents for their children to learn Punjabi. All panelists seemed to outline that as a collective we need to undertake some initiatives to support Punjabi. In response to a question asked by local radio host Navjot Dhillon, Balwant Singh Sanghera shared that there are meetings being arranged with MLA Jinny Sims and MP Sukh Dhaliwal to discuss matters related to Punjabi.
In the next part of the Program, well known Pakistani poet, Tariq Malik shared a poem about Punjabi. Then, students from throughout Canada shared poems, songs, and stories, demonstrating the promise of Punjabi in the next generation. Students from Toronto included: Sukhman Singh, Avneet Kaur, Gunreet Kaur and Azad. From Calgary: Nimrat Kaur Dharni, Keerat Kaur Dharni, Prabhroop Singh Mangat, and Sukhman Kaur Sidhu. From Vancouver (UBC): Shreya Bhatia, Preet King, Gurleen Heer, Gurkaran Dhillon, Tajdeep Sandhu, Karambir Dhaunsi, and Maneevak Bajaj. In addition, Prabhjot Singh presented a song. As well as entertaining the guests, these presentations encouraged everyone about the growth and development of Punjabi.
n the end, Balwant Sanghera expressed appreciation to all guests, participants, and students. He shared words of gratitude towards the media for their support. Additionally, he thanked parents and teachers who encouraged their students and children to participate in the program; in particular, Surjit Kaur from Toronto and Sukhvir Singh Grewal from Calgary. In closing he expressed thanks to the MC for the program, Kamaljit Kambo.