Jason Kenney leads India Independence Day celebrations in Toronto

Toronto (IANS): Canadian Defence Minister Jason Kenney led the India Independence Day celebrations here by chanting `Bharat Mata ki jai’ and `Hindustan zindabad’.

For the first time also, the Indian Independence Day parade here on Sunday was led by a Canadian military band.

Striking a chord with the huge Indo-Canadian crowd at the celebrations by greeting them in multiple Indian languages, the Canadian defence minister lauded India’s diversity as a model for the world. “Canada didn’t invent diversity, India did,” said the Canadian defence minister amid huge applause.

He said India is a Hindu-majority nation, but it had Abdul Kalam, a Muslim, as its president and Manmohan Singh as prime minister. “India is an example for the world.”

Addressing the Indian prime minister as “Narendra Modi-ji”, Jason Kenney said Canada welcomed him in April during “the first dedicated visit by an Indian prime minister in 40 years” after decades of “downgraded and frozen relationship”.

Referring to the bilateral nuclear deal and expansion of Canadian trade missions in India, the minister said “Our Delhi high commission is the largest Canadian foreign mission in the world…and we are the only country to have a full consulate in Chandigarh…”

He said Canada has welcomed nearly 300,000 new Indian immigrants and the number of Indian students has quadrupled since his Conservative Party took over in 2006. “Our relationship has never been stronger.”

Welcoming his Canadian guests and the Indo-Canadian community, Indian Consul General Akhilesh Mishra highlighted the special bonds between the two countries and the contribution of the 1.2 million-strong Indo-Canadian community in promoting ties between the two countries.

“While we can have any number of trading partners and suppliers of goods and technology, but Canada is a unique and very special partner for India for innovation research and human resource development. Because in canada, both in companies and universities, innovation is not driven primarily by corporate greed,” he said.

The colourful Indian Independence Day parade, which included cultural troupes from many Indian states, was led by a Canadian military band and also included Lt Col (Hon) Hari Panday. Indian Army colonel Vishesh Arora, who was in Toronto, also joined the parade in his uniform.

After the speeches and the parade, the day-long celebrations were packed with cultural performances even as food, jewellery and other ethnic ware stalls turned the heart of Toronto into a mini India for the day.

Canadian Immigration Minister Chris Alexander was among the many Canadian leaders who attended the celebrations.