The PLEA Event: Need for Capacity Building
Celebrations for the 7th Mother Language Day included an event organized by Punjab Language Education Association (PLEA) in Surrey last month that presented a community panel discussion and a speech/song contest for young Punjabis.
It was a prideful pleasure for me to hear children and teens deliver speeches, recite poems and sing songs in Punjabi. Aman Taggar’s power-point presentation was insightful where he supported the use of term ‘MaaNboli’ to represent other dialects and languages of the Punjab. However, for me, the most important aspect of the event was the initiation of discussion here in BC on issues faced by Punjabi Canadians from Pakistan.
The PLEA has been serving (cultural) Sikh Punjabi Canadians from India in the Greater Vancouver area for fifteen years, now it responds to the changing needs of Punjabis by acknowledging (cultural) Muslim Punjabi Canadians. The two communities together represent over 90% of all Punjabis, and democratic progressive people on both sides continue to struggle hard to remove barriers to the development of Punjabi MaaNboli and our cultures. In that, we continue to be snared by the interests of the imperialists in the geographic location of the Punjab, the divisive policies of the federal/provincial governments of India and Pakistan, and the violence of our respective extreme ‘right wing’ political formations.
Punjabi communities in Canada are susceptible to the impact of these determinants. We often carry the same prejudices about each other, and indeed about others, in our mainstream cultures here as we do back in India and Pakistan. To overlook, if not mis-represent, each other in our histories, curriculum, classrooms, discussions, is one such impact. An example of it confronted me early last year in the form of UBC’s two-day Conference on Modern Punjabi Literature where Punjabi literature written in Shahmukhi was neither represented nor acknowledged at any level. My post Modern Punjabi Literature at UBC: A glass half full!, and then, ‘Sanjh’ A New Punjabi Literary Magazine point to such omissions.
Canada is home to 800,000 Punjabis, making Punjabi the Fourth ‘most spoken’ language in the country (0.8%) after English (67.1%), French (21.5%) and Chinese (2.6%). Vancouver Lower Mainland and Metro Toronto account for the majority of Punjabis with Surrey (Newton) being the most dense. In all these areas, Punjabi communities from Pakistan have also been growing, and signs of it are apparent in various cultural and political activities organized in the past few months in Surrey by Fraser Valley Peace Council and Bazm-e-Amno-Adab.
The five members of the ‘Pakistani Panel’, as we called ourselves, gave brief personal views on the issues faced by Pakistani Punjabis in Canada. Please click over and see the discussion in the official report of the PLEA event. Here, i want to reiterate my recommendations. The suggestion was for the PLEA and other educational and cultural organizations to implement capacity building in existing programs and services by including, for example, literature written in Shahmukhi and its writers in the discourse on Punjabi literature; to expand existing Punjabi language courses to offer them in both Gurumukhi and Shahmukhi where students may go on to specialize in one script.
Capacity building is an important step forward for the development of Punjabi MaaNboli languages in BC. So far, my appreciation goes to Sadhu Binning and Anne Murphy at UBC for being responsive on this issue, and by making attempts to be inclusive and wholesome in their efforts to develop Punjabi.
While looking for stats on Punjabi, i found this:
‘As of 2006, the population of surrey is 394,976, a 13.6 percent increase from the 2001 population. The foreign-born population is 150,235, constituting 30.28 percent of the city’s population. Visible minorities number 181,005 or 46.1 percent of the population, while Aboriginals constitute 1.9 percent of the population.’ (Wikipedia)
I am not sure how rejoiced i can be at our ever growing numbers in Surrey while the numbers of native peoples, who ‘owned’ Fraser Valley, are persistent in going down.
Celebrates International Mother Language Day
Modern Punjabi Literature at UBC: A glass half full!
‘Sanjh’ A New Punjabi Literary Magazine
Official report of the PLEA event