Chair’s Message

O Canada…Our Home and Native Land…

 

Hello friends.

 

What does that make you feel when you read, listen or hum these lines? Doesn’t it make you feel proud about the choice you made to raise your family here in Canada? Canada has been a great home to me and millions more in the past, opening its generous doors wide for everyone to pursue their dreams equally. Having come here for the first time over two decades ago, it was a case of love at first sight for us. And you know with most of us, love never changes; it’s for keeps.

 

Canada is one of the freest countries on the planet and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms ensures that privilege for every citizen, not just a chosen few. But it is up to all of us to ensure that these rights and privileges are exercised with far greater responsibility and accountability so that it creates a cohesive and mutually respectful society.

 

I would with great responsibility like to exercise my right to express freely today in the long-term interest of our Canada.

 

Many Canadians like me are pained to see Brand Canada getting a beating, due to the actions of certain groups, events and ideologies which have dented our image and hurt our standing in the world. Why do we let this happen? Part of the problem is the compulsions of domestic politics. But shouldn’t we as a country put the breaks on these ‘free expressions’ when it begins to hurt us all.

 

All freedoms are exercised with certain limits for the sake of public order and larger peace. A few recent developments in Canada has caused much heartburn among those who genuinely love Canada and cherish its unique position in the world community. In the name of free expression, there have been incidents that have marred the pristine image of Canada in the eyes of the world.

 

Beautiful places of faith which are a great source of peace, solace and spiritual nourishment are turning into political battlegrounds, celebrations of faith have become arenas for display of strength, hatred and violence.  It might seem unreal that some of them have made public statements threatening to kill diplomats and politicians in another country. The Indo Canadian community knows that this is nothing new. They have done this in the past. The threats and intimidation is not only directed at the representatives of Indian government and India itself, but has spilled over to threaten the larger Indo Canadian community. In many affected communities, they live in fear and carry a sense of unease. This doesn’t bode well for social harmony and intercommunity dialogues that should be a part of multicultural Canada. No one has a right to abuse the freedoms to threaten or coerce others into acting against their will. But this what is happening.

 

What is even more disappointing is that most people including the authorities stay silent observers to what is happening. The enablers of this extremist ideology are often those same people who have the power to influence and means to dissuade them from creating an atmosphere that is foreign to Canada. Their inaction gives an impression to an observer that far from being the freest country on the planet, we are heading towards becoming a free for all society. Our political leaders and public intellectuals need to be made aware that a vast majority of our people are embarrassed and try to stay out of this messy situation. Their silence should not be mistaken as approval or sympathy for the troublemakers. Community members privately express their disgust and stay far away from this ugly politicking.

 

Nowadays, I get asked why the Indian media commentators are so negative on Canada? For every action there will be an equally opposite reaction. Have you taken a look at the headlines appearing on Canadian media whenever India or its government are mentioned. We can wonder why majority of our media is so bent on wrecking a relationship with a country that is viewed as critical to peace and prosperity in the 21st century. To me, it’s equally disturbing to see Canada getting a bad name in India, as much as India getting a bad name in Canada. Canada and India, both thriving democracies, are fine examples of how equal and  fair opportunities they both present to their people. Negative elements with ulterior motives will try their best to upset the delicate balance that maintains harmony within our societies. We should all collectively work together against all forces ruining unity, peace and Canadian way of life.

 

The fair name of Canada should not be allowed to be tarred with the actions of a tiny segment of people who exercise their ‘rights’, at the cost of the silent majority. So, I would like to appeal to everyone looking at Canada with a level of concern not to be carried away with the headlines. Canada is still among the fairest of countries and its people among the most patient and welcoming. We should avoid the tendency to criticize a whole people even if the provocations come from those who are in positions of authority.

 

As I have said in the past as well, the 2.1 million Indo-Canadians who call Canada their home are very proud of our roots in motherland India that is Bharat while being very loyal and committed to our homeland Canada. For us, there is no greater dream than seeing both democratic countries work together to realize the true potential of this relationship. There are some great things happening in New India. We will be the loser if we swallow the headlines carried by a negatively motivated media machine here in the West when it comes to the giant strides that country is making for the benefit of its people and the world at large.

 

After many centuries of foreign exploitation and domination, India that is Bharat is hard at work, reclaiming its civilizational strength and glorious roots while staying in step with modern development models and values. We as Indo Canadians can leverage the strength of our strong diaspora and contribute to evolving a great bilateral growth story. Be involved and avoid where the negativity comes from.

 

We at Canada India Foundation will forcefully push our desire for Canada to benefit from the opportunity which New India presents today and tomorrow. We will do our bit by staying on course to keep the ship of bilateral ties sailing, irrespective of frequent unfavorable tides. A major initiative towards our commitment for this year is our plans to take a CIF Business Delegation to India in mid November in partnership with Indo Canada Business Chamber (ICBC) a premier industry body headquartered in New Delhi with connections across India. The delegation will cover major cities and regions which are the main catalysts behind the booming economy of India. Stay tuned for more exciting news and let’s keep working hard for Canada, as this is our home and we owe everything to Canada.

 

Thank you