BY HARNOOR GILL
Grade 11 student
Christ The King Catholic Secondary
THE audience at Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum at the event hosted by the National Alliance of Indo-Canadians eagerly waited for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to introduce Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the public in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). However, India’s rich culture and heritage was presented first. There were Indian folk dances such as Bhangra, Garba and Kathak from various parts of India such as Punjab, Gujarat and South India.
At the end of the last performance by famous playback singer Sukhwinder Singh, it was time for the part of the event that everyone in the audience had been eagerly waiting for. As people chanted, “Modi, Modi, Modi,” Modi, Harper and his wife, Laureen Harper, waved to the audience. After the excitement had died down, it was time for Harper to finally introduce Modi.
Harper said: “The relationship between Canada and India is important because of trade and investment but it is strong because of people and families; strong because of you.”
At one point Harper noted: “The Indo-Canadian community has grown in size and prominence. In fact, Canada is home to one of the largest and most successful Indian Diasporas on the face of the Earth.” The audience was ecstatic at hearing that and started chanting: “Harper, Harper, Harper.”
Harper also said: “This community has a long and rich history in Canada. In fact, the first Indian immigrants arrived in Canada more than a century ago through ambition, ingenuity and hard work.”
Harper pointed out that Canada was the only developed country willing to offer the state of Gujarat help in the time of their distress. He said: “Canada extended its support long before to Modi when he was chief minister of Gujarat. Canada has become friends with Gujarat and have established the friendship long before the successful chief minister Modi became the honourable Prime Minister of India.”
Modi was finally escorted onto the stage and talked to the public about his visit so far as well as the tasks he has finished until now in his 10 months in power. He said: “India used to be known as ‘scam India’ but I want everyone to know it as ‘skilled India’ for the future. The reason being is because development is a key to success.”
Modi said: “One of Canada’s premiers visited me when I was a chief minister of Gujarat, I said my state is like this: I don’t have mines of diamonds in my state but the people of my state have the power of entrepreneurship that out of 10 diamonds, nine of them have been marked in some ways by an Indian descendant.”
I was able to grab the opportunity of attending the reception thanks to my friend, Jack Greenberg of the HPCYA (Halton Progressive Conservative Youth Association), who first informed me about the event.
This also allowed some members of the PWC (Peace Welcome Club) to attend the event. I signed my youth group up to become one of the 336 welcome partners and eagerly waited for a response from the group organizers. When the NAIC contacted us about the confirmation, Jack Greenberg and myself chose eight others to attend with us.
I was ready to go to the event with my clothes and camera ready the night before. Later in the evening, I received a forwarded email from the editor of the Indo-Canadian Voice regarding an earlier attempt I had made at covering the event as a youth journalist. It turns out that I now had two ways of covering the event and my options were either going to it as a welcome partner or as a media person. I decided to try the new experience of attending an event as a youth journalist. The next day, April 15, was a learning experience for me that I will never forget.
Attending Modi’s visit to Canada as a media person was daunting as I was the only youth journalist present but I made the best of it.
Quick Facts (from PMO):
* Canada and India have longstanding bilateral relations built upon shared traditions of democracy and pluralism, and on strong interpersonal connections. Canada’s approximately 1.2 million Indian diaspora community is one of the largest Indian diasporas in the world.
* In 2010, Canada and India negotiated a bilateral cultural memorandum of understanding that allows for greater cultural exchange, including sports. In addition, an Audiovisual Coproduction agreement entered into force in July 2014.
* India is an important source country for immigration and foreign students to Canada. With a High Commission in New Delhi, Consulates General in Bengaluru, Chandigarh and Mumbai, and trade offices in Ahmedabad, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata, Canada’s presence in India ranks as its third-largest globally.
* India is Canada’s largest trading partner in South Asia and is a priority market under Canada’s Global Markets Action Plan.
* With bilateral merchandise trade totalling nearly $6.33 billion in 2014, a market of more than 1.2 billion people, and a predicted economic growth of 7.5 per cent in 2015, India represents exciting opportunities for Canadian businesses.
* Harper first met Modi on the margins of the G-20 Summit in Australia in November 2014. Harper also visited India in November 2012 and November 2009.
* This is the first official bilateral visit to Canada by an Indian Prime Minister since 1973.