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Message from BPCA

Statement on the Celebration of February 21st

Photo by Csaba Diglics

Photo by Csaba Diglics

Diversity of culture is important to BPCA, and UNESCO's International Mother Language Day is a great opportunity to remind each one of us of our roots, and to come together in respect and unity. International Mother Language Day is noteworthy and one of the special days in this world, that has been celebrated since the year 2000. The recognition of February 21st by UNESCO has specific significance to all nations, especially to Canadians with Bangladeshi background. The day marks the anniversary of the tragic shooting on unarmed students in 1952, who were protesting against the exclusion of the Bengali language by law in Dhaka, now the capital of Bangladesh. The history of Bangladesh and its liberation is deeply rooted to the language movement.

International Mother Language Day is an iconic event for Bengalis, and the symbol of struggle for people to preserve linguistic and cultural identity all over the world.

For Bangladesh, the celebration of 21st February (Language Martyr's Day) is the day when all Bengalis dress in black and white, murmuring songs of crying. The day is a public holiday and the national flag flies at half-mast. People, especially young men and women with artistic skill, draw special themes known in Bangla as "alpana" on the roads. Silent mourners dressed all white go out on the roads, walking bare feet towards the graves of the Martyrs, holding a bunch of flowers in their hands. "My Brothers Blood Spattered 21st February", a tune of the song represents the day in the hearts of every Bangladeshi, playing in every corner of Bangladesh throughout the month of February. Most of the schools and cultural institutions host programs, plays and concerts based on the culture of rememberance. We pay homage to all the martyrs of the historic movement.

The Observance of Mother Language Day has brought fresh glory and respect to Bangladesh, which is making significant paces towards peace, progress and prosperity at home and abroad.

We as Bangladesh born expatriates and as a rapid growing community of Bengali-Canadians or Bengali Americans uphold our diversity and culture for future generations, and as a first, we want to give voice to other communities as well as to expand our campaign in requesting the day to be declared as a public holiday. We want to pursue the government of Canada to arrange Royal assent on Private Member's Bill C-573, to make International Mother Language Day official in all the provinces of Canada.

More work needs to be done for immigrants and First Nations people of Canada. The availability of mother-tongue education and the preservation of linguistic minorities is a problem for many countries all over the world.

We are also requesting the Government of Bangladesh to initiate a substantial diplomatic move through the High Commissions of Bangladesh to explore International Mother Language Day and to open a unit in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to monitor its progress.

Delwar Jahid,
President of Bangladesh PressClub Centre of Alberta (BPCA)

November 17, 2014

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