(Photo: Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Deepak Obhrai participate in the 13th Annual Diwali Celebration in Mississauga. PMO photo by Deb Ransom )
DEEPAK Obhrai, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and for International Human Rights, hosted the 13th National Diwali Celebration in Toronto on Saturday that was attended by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and an enthusiastic crowd of more than 5,000 people.
The Diwali celebration, which was held at the International Centre in Mississauga, was attended by cabinet ministers, MPs, senators, members of the diplomatic community and people from across the greater Toronto area.
In previous years, the National Diwali Celebration was held in Ottawa, but this year it was moved to Mississauga to give more people the opportunity to attend and experience this popular Indo-Canadian and South Asian cultural event.
The event was sponsored by more than 40 Hindu temples from across Canada jointly with Indo-Canadian organizations.
HARPER said: “Although, as you know, people of several different traditions celebrate Diwali, I know this festival is especially important to the hundreds of thousands of Hindus living across Canada, so let me begin by wishing all our Hindu friends and everyone celebrating this festival a very happy Diwali.
“ … Now Deepak, as you all know – and let me just say this, it needs to be said, … that Deepak has been the host of Ottawa’s Diwali celebration on the Hill for more than 10 years.
“During that time, he has, more than any person, been instrumental in making this festival a popular pan-Canadian tradition.
“So popular that this year, for the very first time, we’ve had to move our celebration off of the confines of Parliament Hill, all the way out of Ottawa to here in Mississauga.
“Now, friends, I’ve attended many Diwali celebrations, as Deepak has noted – in fact he’s been counting over the years – but this is easily the biggest and the best one yet, so congratulations to Deepak and all the members of the GTA Caucus.
“It’s a job very well done.
“Now, ladies and gentlemen, exactly one year ago, as you know, Laureen and I were in India.
“That was my second trip to that country, and also the longest tour I’ve taken of any country as Prime Minister.
“I was there to talk trade and energy with Prime Minister [Manmohan] Singh, and to announce our plans to open a new consulate in Bangalore, and to show how our Government is putting India at the centre of Canada’s Asia policy.
“One of the most memorable parts of that trip was our tour of the beautiful Sri Someshwara Temple in Bangalore.
“During that tour I also recalled with great fondness our visit three years earlier to New Delhi’s stunning Swaminarayan Temple.
“I thought even farther back to the time when I had the great honour to officially open the BAPS Mandir, right here in the GTA.
“It is a very impressive complex that stands as a testament to the accomplishments and contributions of our Indo-Canadian community, not just in this region, but right across our vast country.
“And let me just say to everybody present, I know that most of you are from the community, but particularly to the media, I say to everyone, anyone who has a chance to come to the GTA, should visit that temple.
“It is a tremendous monument for this country.
“A monument, in particular, as I said to our Indo-Canadian community, men and women, who, through their ingenuity, hard work and entrepreneurship are contributing to Canada’s prosperity.
“Men and women, who, through their commitment to family, faith and community, are helping to build a better Canada, men and women just like you.
“So congratulations for that.
“Let me also thank you for all that you are doing to make Canada more prosperous, stronger, and more united, to make us the best country in the world!
“My friends, today as we celebrate Diwali, which is, as you all know, the victory of good over evil, the triumph of light over darkness, this is a hopeful time.
“It is a time to dispel fear and ignorance, and to embrace hope and truth, a time to be generous and charitable to those less fortunate among us.
“This Diwali season, let us be thankful, first and foremost, for the health and safety of our families.
“Let us also be thankful for the opportunity to call this country, our Canada, home.
“A country where all citizens enjoy equality of opportunity, a country unwavering in its commitment to freedom, democracy, and justice, a country that is a model of peace, pluralism and prosperity.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your country, this is my country, a country of which we can all be very proud, a country to which you are making a tremendous contribution.
“So thank you once again for being here.
“Happy Diwali, everyone!”
OBHRAI said: “Toronto is home to more than 150 Temples. So this is a great place for our community to share their religious and cultural heritage with fellow Canadians.
“We have come a long way since I inaugurated this event back in 1998. As I stand here for the 13th year and look around this large auditorium with an overflowing crowd, I can be happy that we have achieved what we set out to do.
“Today, Diwali is truly a national Canadian celebration. People have travelled from all across the country to be a part of this national celebration. We not only have people here from the Greater Toronto Area, but we have representatives from Montreal, Ottawa and from Calgary. All in all, we have over 5,000 people here today. I welcome all of you. We have more than 40 religious and community organizations and media outlets, who have come together as the sponsors of the 13th National Diwali Celebration.
“… Together, they represent the very best of multicultural Canada, where people from a multitude of ethnic backgrounds harmoniously co-exist in this great urban landscape, joyfully sharing their history and heritage with others. Events like these make Canada the greatest country in the world.”
Obhrai said that he took the oath of allegiance at his swearing-in ceremony on September 19 as a Member of the Queen’s Privy Council of Canada using the
Hindu holy book, the Bhagavad Gita.
He added: “I am proud to tell you that this was the first time the Bhagavad Gita entered Rideau Hall and it was officially signed by Prime Minister and Governor General.”
Obhrai said that one of the milestones was in 2011 when Canada Post issued a commemorative Diwali stamp, which Harper and celebration.
He pointed out that this was the seventh time that Harper was attending as the Prime Minister. Harper also attended this celebration as the Leader of the Official Opposition.