Punjabi Language Education Association (PLEA) has been promoting Punjabi in Canada in general and BC in particular for more than 30 years. In this regard it has received considerable support from the community and well-wishers of Punjabi language and culture. As a result of these joint efforts Punjabi has now become the language of employment in a lot of Canadian cities. Thousands of people are now engaged in this process.
In addition to Punjabi being a good source of employment, it is also being taught in a number of schools, colleges and universities in BC and many other places in Canada. Here in BC, a number of hospitals, city halls, banks, credit unions and businesses display signs like: “We speak Punjabi.” Vancouver International Airport displays welcoming signs in Punjabi. In addition to that various government and non-government agencies provide their services in Punjabi as well. There is no doubt that by working to-gether we have accomplished a lot. However, still a lot more needs to be done in this regard.
The Punjabi community has been in Canada for almost 130 years now. Though our culture, customs and other things are considered as Canadian yet our mother tongue Punjabi is still considered as a foreign language. We recognize that the British and the French as two founding nations have been able to make their languages –English and French – as the two official languages of Canada. Unfortunately, in this process the original and early settlers of Canada, the Indigenous communities were bypassed till now.
Canada of 2022 is very different from the one that came into existence in 1867. The Indigenous community has been asserting itself for quite some time now. PLEA fully supports their efforts including their demand and struggle for revival and recognition of their languages. Furthermore, during the past 50 or so years Canada has become a totally multicultural country. As is well known,no culture can survive without its language. We believe that it is time that Canada should revisit its language policy and make necessary changes to accommodate other languages that have been contributing to the development of Canada.
With this in mind, a number of PLEA’s Board of Directors (Sadhu Binning, Rajinder Pandher, Kamaljit Kambo, Paul Binning, Ranbir Johal, Harman Pandher and Balwant Sanghera) met with National Leader of the NDP Mr. Jagmeet Singh in his Burnaby office on July 22. The main purpose of our meeting was to share with Mr. Singh one of the long term goals of PLEA that Punjabi and other major Indigenous and other languages spoken by millions of Canadians across Canada no longer be viewed as ‘foreign’ languages. They should be given their long overdue recognition .
Mr. Singh was very receptive to our request to follow up and suggested a number of strategies to follow this up. He emphasized that the foremost of these was the importance of lobbying our elected officials via petitions, letter writings and phone calls etc. Mr. Singh stressed that the politicians and governments respond well to public pressure . As such, we should try to get other interested communities on board and undertake such measures in order to convince the decision makers in Ottawa to make appropriate changes to our language laws. We are very thankful to him for this and hope to follow this up at a later meeting.