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Canada’s Ontario declares October as Hindu Heritage Month to Recognise Contributions by Hindu Canadians

The bill recognises important contributions that Hindu Canadians have made to Ontario's social, economic, religious, political and cultural fabric

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Picture of Ontario Legislative Assembly in Toronto. Wikimedia

Toronto, October 27, 2016: A bill to proclaim October as Hindu Heritage Month annually in Canada’s Ontario province has been introduced in the provincial assembly here.

Ontario is home to more than 700,000 Indo-Canadians.

Introducing the bill in the Ontario assembly here, Joe Dickson, who is a Member of the Provincial Parliament (MPP), said that by proclaiming the month of October as Hindu Heritage Month, Ontario will recognize the “important contributions that Hindu Canadians have made to Ontario’s social, economic, religious, political and cultural fabric.”

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Dickson said the first Hindu immigrants began to arrive in at the beginning of the 20th century. Since then, they have made big contribution in all fields – science, education, medicine, law, politics, business, culture and sports.

“Right from the start, Ontario’s Hindu communities helped build our province into the greatest place to live, work and raise families. We’re all proud of the achievements of the Hindu community and how they have helped each other and enriched our province,” the MPP said.

Dickson said October held a special significance for Hindus.

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“Each year, three important festivals that members of the Hindu community celebrate occur in and around October. These festivals include Navratri and Durga Puja, which were celebrated earlier this month, and Diwali, the festival of lights, which will begin next week.”

He said if his bill is passed, the “Hindu Heritage Month would give all Ontarians an opportunity to remember, celebrate and educate future generations about Hindu Canadians and the important role that they have played to date and continue to play in communities across Ontario.”

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Interestingly, the Ontario assembly has just passed another bill to proclaim October also as Islamic Heritage Month.

April has already been proclaimed as Sikh Heritage Month in Ontario.

In a bigger victory for Tamils, January has been proclaimed as Tamil Heritage Month across Canada. The Canadian parliament passed a motion in this regard earlier this month. (IANS)

 

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India and Canada to Jointly Issue Two Sets of Diwali Themed Postal Stamps

The stamps will be released on September 21 as per a MoU signed between the postal departments of the two countries

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Diwali
Diwali does not mean you will have to compromise on your health, Wikimedia
  • India and Canada have a long-standing close relationship based on shared values of democracy
  • The presence of a large Indian Diaspora in Canada provide a strong foundation for the relationship
  • The theme of Diwali was chosen considering the large presence of Indian Diaspora in Canada

New Delhi, August 31, 2017: India and Canada will jointly issue two sets of commemorative postage stamps on the theme of Diwali, the government announced on Wednesday.

The stamps will be released on September 21 as per a MoU signed between the postal departments of the two countries.

“India and Canada have a long-standing close relationship based on shared values of democracy, pluralism, equality for all and rule of law. Strong people-to-people contacts and the presence of a large Indian Diaspora in Canada provide a strong foundation for the relationship,” said a statement from the Indian government.

It said the theme of Diwali was chosen “considering the large presence of Indian Diaspora” in Canada. (IANS)

 

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‘Vanakkam!’ Tweets Canadian PM: Justin Trudeau Joins over 200,000 People at the Biggest Tamil Diaspora Festival in Toronto

According to Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, the Tamil community has enriched Canadian multicultural society in a short period since its first arrival in large numbers in the 1980s

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Tamil Fest
Justin Trudeau attended the Tamil Fest organized in Toronto. Wikimedia
  • A Tamil Fest was organized in Toronto to celebrate Tamil culture, cuisine, and heritage.
  • The festival was also attended by Canadian PM Justin Trudeau
  • The month of January has been officially declared as Tamil Heritage Month in Canada.

Toronto, August 29, 2017:  Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined over 200,000 people here at the biggest Tamil diaspora festival that showcased Tamil culture, heritage, and cuisine.

Toronto’s Markham Road turned into a little Tamil nation on the occasion as hundreds of vends came up to treat visitors to rare tropical Tamil cuisine, displaying cultural items and offering rare glimpses into Tamil way of life.

Some rare forms of Tamil dances were also performed.

“People generally associate Tamil dance with bharatnatyam. But there are over 50 old forms of Tamil dance which very few know. These were showcased here for our future Tamil generation and Canadians,” said Canadian Tamil Congress spokesperson David Poopalapillai.

A big attraction at the festival was one the two lifeboats in which first Tamil refugees (numbering 155) fleeing the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict had reached Canadian shores in August 1986.

It was the first time after 1912 that Canada accepted boat refugees who happened to be Tamils, Poopalapillai said.

“These refugees had reached Germany from Sri Lanka. From Germany, they took a ship, but were dumped in the ocean in two lifeboats to fend for themselves. Luckily, they drifted into Canadian waters off Newfoundland and were saved by Canadian fishermen,” said the Tamil spokesperson.

The Canadian Prime Minister posed with some of those who were on the two lifeboats.

Trudeau said Canada consistently raised its voice in support of Tamils during the ethnic war in Sri Lanka. Though the conflict has ended, he said, the long-term solution to Tamil grievances is yet to be reached.

He said the Tamil community has enriched Canadian multicultural society in a short period since its first arrival in large numbers in the 1980s.

In recognition of this contribution, Trudeau said amid applause, his government has declared January as Tamil Heritage Month in Canada.

ALSO READ Justin Trudeau’s Government Selects Indo-Canadian Rana Sarkar as Consul-General to San Francisco

Numbering about 350,000, Tamils are one of the youngest and fastest growing communities in Canada, with their major concentration centred around the Greater Toronto Area. (IANS)

 

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Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

The truth about IS and Afghanistan is definitely no picnic

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Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016. The rise of IS in Afghanistan has become such a priority that U.S. and Afghan forces sometimes support the Taliban while battling IS, VOA
  • Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
  • Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
  • In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS

June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.

Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.

Confusion leads to mistakes

All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.

Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”

Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.

Confusing scenarios

Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.

“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.

In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.

IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.

Families displaced

IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.

Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.

“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.

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Recruiting unemployed youths

IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.

Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.

IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.

Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.

Darzab district

Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.

IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.

Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.

“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.

Hit-and-hide strategy

IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.

Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.

“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)