In October 2016, Motion M-24 was passed in the House of Commons in Ottawa designating January as Tamil Heritage Month, as brought forward by Scarborough Rouge-Park Member of Parliament Gary Anandasangaree. The motion serves to “recognize the contributions that Tamil-Canadians have made to Canadian society, the richness of Tamil language and culture, and the importance of educating and reflecting upon Tamil heritage for future generations by declaring January, every year, Tamil Heritage Month.”
With this motion passed, January 2017 became the first month in which Tamil Heritage Month was recognized and celebrated by Tamils all across Canada. From coast to coast to coast, Tamils from all walks of the community came together to celebrate the contributions of the Tamil language and culture within the diverse mosaic known as Canada.
On January 30, 2017 Gary Anandasangaree held a Tamil Heritage Month gathering in Ottawa. The event drew in an estimated attendance of over a thousand members from the Tamil community throughout Canada, as well as other communities, to celebrate and appreciate the milestone that has been achieved.
The venue contained many exhibits and activities that allowed for the appreciation of the Tamil language and culture. Attendees were able to learn a few steps of the Bharatanatyam dance, presumably the oldest dance heritage emerging from the Indian subcontinent and regarded as the mother of many other Indian classical dance forms. Exhibits on the Tamil script and its evolution over time were displayed, and attendees had the opportunity to learn how to write their names in Tamil. Excerpts from the Thirukkural and Carnatic instruments were on display as well, further highlighting major elements that have shaped the Tamil identity.
Throughout the course of the event, a slideshow presented a timeline of the development of the Tamil community. It highlighted the names of the pioneering families that settled in Canada as early as the 1950s in cities such as Fredericton, NB and Regina, SK. It showcased the founding of Tamil organizations that pushed for the preservation and growth of the Tamil identity in Canada. It highlighted the migration waves of Tamils into Canada after the eruption of the Civil War in Sri Lanka, as well as how the Tamil community has since adapted and contributed to the Canadian image and identity. As a result, the Tamil community in Canada stands strong with hundreds of thousands of members among different cities and provinces from coast to coast to coast.
Prominent members of the Tamil Canadian community and Canadian politicians were among those present during the celebration. In a video presentation, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau highlighted the importance of Tamil Heritage Month and how the first commemoration of this milestone coincides fittingly with the celebration of 150 years of Confederation. Members of Parliament Raj Grewal and Gary Anandasangaree have highlighted the importance of the hard work and dedication that members of the Tamil community place in all facets of their lives so that Canada as a whole continues to grow and prosper.
The event served as a means of empowerment for the Tamil community to continue in its goals of positively impacting the development of the Tamil and Canadian identities within a diverse framework. It allowed members who are not a part of the Tamil community to better understand and develop an appreciation for the various facets that make up the Tamil language, culture and identity within Canada.
As Canada marks 150 years of Confederation, a celebration that is based upon the foundation of a society composed of various racial, linguistic, and religious backgrounds, the recognition and celebration of Tamil Heritage Month through this event and many others shows that the Tamil Canadian community holds an important place in the continual development of Canada as a whole. With the recognition of Tamil Heritage Month in Canada, may the community continue to flourish and share its values that help in the preservation and growth of the Canadian identity.