Mother Language Day
By MD. Nuruzzaman
Hundreds of Bengali community members gathered at Windsor City Hall to celebrate International Mother Language Day (IMLD).
The celebration on Feb. 21 started with the Bangladesh and Canadian national anthems followed by Mayor Drew Dilkens raising the flag of Bangladesh.
UNESCO created IMLD in 1999 as a worldwide annual observance day to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.
In his opening speech, Abdul Quaiyum president of the Bangladesh-Canada Association of Windsor-Essex said observance of the day is important to sustain the future through multilingual education.
“Our sacrifice has been recognized and honoured by UNESCO. Now the IMLD is observed worldwide on the 21st of February every year,” said Quaiyum. “The day is to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity.”
He also asked city council for a space to establish a monument and memorial to commemorate the language martyrs of Bengali Language Movement. The Martyrs were a group of students in 1952, who protested and demanded their language, Bengali, be made one of the state languages. Their demands were successful in 1956.
“It is a very solemn event. It is also a very exciting event and here in Canada we put a commitment on multiculturalism,” said Paul Borrelli, Ward 10 councilor. “We are also commemorating this event – many people struggled and died for this effort.”
According to Statistics Canada, there are nearly 100,000 Bengali speaking people living in Ontario. Windsor has almost 2,000 Bengali people, mainly working class and students.
“We welcome different cultures and people from the different countries to Windsor,” said Ward 2 councilor John Elliott.
Mayor Drew Dilkens spoke to the audience about the struggles of the students and the importance of celebrating together.
“We are providing an opportunity for all of us to reflect on those who made sacrifices in exchange for freedom. It is now one of the great reasons about living in Canada,” said Dilkens. “We are free, we can celebrate, we can be together, we have the foremost diverse community in the entire nation, we can cherish the best things we have are bring to our country. Language is the most powerful instrument to preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage.”
Soon Windsor will have a permanent monument to celebrate IMLD. Dilkens asked community leaders to come up with ideas about spaces for a monument to help initiate the project.