Punjabi Made Third Official Language in Canada

Punjabi made third language in Parliament of Canada

Punjabi made third language in Parliament of Canada

To go by the recent news reports, Punjabi has been declared as the third official language in the House of Commons in Canada. This is indeed great news as well as a proud moment for the Punjabi community residing in India, Canada, as well as other countries. The community has been an intrinsic part of Canada’s social and political life, but this official recognition of the popular language after so many years means a lot.

2011 census report

According to the 2011 census, in Canada, more than 2 million people speak neither English nor French at home, though English and French are the official languages. With 4,60,000 people reporting Punjabi as their mother tongue, it has become become the third most common language spoken in the country. It also has the highest retention rate, the reason being there are generations of Punjabi families living in various parts of Canada.

Though no official recognition was given to the language all these years, there can be no denying the fact that in most parts of Canada, there is a substantial number of people of Punjabi origin. Since 1994 itself, Punjabi, along with French, Spanish, German, Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, is the second language in British Columbia, Canada. Similarly in Vancouver, Punjabi is the third most common language after English and Chinese. Even in Brampton, Ontario, it is the second popular language. In Surrey, there are almost 1,00,000 Punjabi speaking people and it is the largest Punjabi speaking community outside Punjab.

Why has official recognition been given to Punjabi language?

It all started with the 19th October 2015 general elections when 23 MPs of Indian origin were elected to the House of Commons in Canada, out of which 20 were Punjabi speaking. The elected 20 Punjabi-speaking MPs are true representatives of the state, despite being from a different ethnic origin. The 4,60,000 native Punjabi speakers constitute 1.3% of Canada’s population and the good news is that the 20 Punjabi-speaking MPs constitute 6% of the House of Commons.

It must be noted that there were only 2 official languages in Canada all these years: English and French. With the election of 20 Punjabi-speaking candidates, it is indeed a proud moment for the Punjabis and Indians as a whole that Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau has declared Punjabi as the third official language. It’s a big step for the Canadian Parliament. A recognition long awaited!!!

How will it help India-Canada ties?

The bilateral relations between Canada and the Republic of India have been continuing for a very long time on the principles of “mutual commitment to democracy”, “pluralism”, and “people-to-people links”. Canada and India enjoy a prosperous trading relationship inspite of the recession that occurred in late 2000. In 2009, exports to India from Canada were C$2.1 billion, and Canada imports from India totalled C$2.0 billion in the same year, which gave Canada a C$100 million trade surplus. Year 2012 was celebrated as the year of India in Canada to promote business, political and cultural relations with our country. Canada and India are presently holding negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) to further improve the trade relations between the two countries.

With 23 Indians representing the House of Commons in Canada, things are definitely headed for better prospects for both the countries. The voice of the Indo-Canadian community will now be very well represented in the parliament. Overall, it is the victory of the South Asian community.

Contribution of the Punjabi community in Canada

Canadian Sikhs should be credited with paving the path to Canada for all South Asian immigrants. Sikhs have made significant contribution to the Canadian economy if we consider their professional and business advances. The Sikh community is represented in all professional fields be it medical, legal, technological or academic in Canada. The Indo-Canadian community started around the beginning of the 20th century, the Sikhs representing the majority of the Indian community followed by the Hindus. The Canadian government re-enfranchised the Indo-Canadian community with the right to vote in 1947. Punjabis are seen engaged in almost all types of jobs in Canada starting from the high profile lucrative jobs to all kinds of odd jobs available at railway construction sites, dairy farms, fruit farms, lumbering agencies, logging operations and in small retail businesses. In recent years, Punjabi immigration has included significant numbers of university-educated and professionally trained people. With the increase in the Punjabi population, with immigration policies favouring the young, educated, professional immigrants whose skills fulfill the labour force requirements in Canada, Canada has benefitted immensely from this “brain drain”.

Punjabi population in other countries

Not only in Canada, even if we look at other counties, there are many Punjabi speaking people or people of Punjabi origin. Punjabis have made their presence felt in other countries as well. In Australia, it is the second most spoken language, in England it is the third most spoken language. About 100 million people in the world are native speakers of Punjabi. They have also led to the propagation and spreading of Sikhism in the United States. It is really commendable that with sheer grit and hardwork, this community is carving a niche for themselves at the global level.