Pakistanis in Canada Celebrate
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
Independence Day in Canada. Pictures by Syed Azhar Ali
in Greater Toronto celebrated the 59th anniversary of Pakistan
with great enthusiasm and fervor. A number of Pakistani and
South Asian organizations held events to mark this occasion.
A major event was held on August 14th at the City Hall, Toronto
co-sponsored by the Pakistan Independence Day Parade Committee
and the Consulate General of Pakistan. Thousands of people
attended this daylong event in the downtown. It was the first
time that the Pakistan Independence Day Parade Committee,
chaired by Rear Admiral (Retired) Sohail A Khan, had arranged
the celebration in the city center. The parade organizers
believe that the celebration was the best opportunity to show
the Canadians glimpses of Pakistan’s rich heritage.
The number of Pakistanis and Pakistan-origin Canadians is
estimated at 300,000 in Greater Toronto which includes Brampton,
Durham, Milton, Mississagua, Oakville, Orangeville and Scarbrough
which has the highest concentration of Pakistanis.
The independence day event was attended, among others, by
Canada’s former Immigration Minister Judy Sgro, Finance
Minister of Ontario Greg Sorbara, Ontario opposition leader
John Terry, Dr. Shafiq Qadri Member of Ontario Provincial
Assembly and Wajid Khan Member of Canadian Parliament.
Since the morning, it was a mela atmosphere at the city hall
center where Pakistanis from far and near started gathering.
A large number of people were present at the scheduled time
of the flag-hoisting ceremony at 1.30 p.m. A Canadian band
played the Pakistani national anthem.
The flag hoisting ceremony was followed by a float parade
from the University Avenue to the City Hall. The floats included
portraits of Quad-i-Azam Mohammad Alli Jinnah, Minar-e-Pakistan,
Khyber Pass, Mazar-e-Quad-i-Azam and the player icons of Pakistan
that included Jahangir Khan and Imran Khan. The float parade
lasted for one hour and was marked occasionally by the slogans
of Pakistan Zindabad, Jeeve Pakistan and Canada Zindabad.
It also attracted the downtown crowd.
The second part of the program began at around 4pm and included
speeches and a colorful musical program. Addressing a large
crowd, Consul General of Pakistan in Toronto, Ghalib Iqbal,
said that Pakistanis are hard working people whose talent
is recognized worldwide. Unfortunately, he added, after 9/11
Pakistan has become the target of negative propaganda and
the whole nation is being defamed because of the acts of a
few. He regretted that anti-Pakistan feelings have once again
surfaced after the London bombings. Pakistan-origin Member
of Canadian Parliament, Wajid Khan, in his speech pointed
out that after 9/11 Pakistan has cooperated with the West
in its fight against terrorism but the West has not warmly
reciprocated to this.
Former Immigration Minister Judy Sgro, in her speech said
that Canada welcomes people from all parts of the world who
enjoy equal rights and opportunities. She said that Pakistanis,
like everybody else, can contribute to the progress and development
In a special message on this occasion, the Premier of Onatario
Province Dalton Macguinty said that the 59th independence
day anniversary provides an opportunity for all Ontarians
to give full and deserving recognition to many vital contributions
of Pakistani Canadians to the social, economic and cultural
fabric of the province. “For those Canadians whose roots
are in Pakistan, this is an ideal time to reflect with pride
on the rich cultural heritage and time-honored traditions
that serve to define and distinguish this vibrant, dynamic
A colorful musical program was presented after the speeches.
Hadeeqa Kiyani was the star artist of the program. She thrilled
the audience with her national songs with slogans of Pakistan
Zindabad and Jeeve Pakistan. On public demand she also presented
her popular songs. The all-day independence program ended
at around 11 pm.
Another major independence day event was arranged by the South
Asian Regional Cooperation Council of Canada (SARC) and Asian
Canadian Support Center on August 12 in Toronto. It was a
joint Indo-Pakistan independence day celebration where speakers
highlighted the importance of promoting peace and harmony
among Canadians of South Asian origin.
Zubair Choudhry, Chairman of SARC Canada, said that as conflicts
between India and Pakistan are resolved the significance of
the region will increase as a global trading bloc with Canada
and the United States. Normalization of Indo-Pakistan relations
will open “a market of 1.4 billion consumers with more
than one trillion dollars economy to North American products
and services,” he added. Expressing similar views, Syed
Ashar Warsi, president of South Asian Support Center, observed
that in the light of the increasing economic cooperation in
the region, particularly between India and Pakistan, South
Asia is poised to move forward in several sectors.
A symposium on Pakistan, organized by the Pakistan Reparation
Council International (PRCI), was another major event in Toronto.
Addressing the audience, the PRCI Chairman Ehtesham Uddin
said that any anniversary of Pakistan’s independence
will remain incomplete without highlighting the plight of
stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh. He said that these Pakistanis,
who still raise the flag of Pakistan, are living in very poor
conditions with only four kilogram per month wheat ration
to each family. Ehtesham Uddin said that Pakistan is currently
host to 300,000 Afghan refugees and drawing praise for its
hospitality but it is refusing to accept its own people who
supported the Pakistani army in 1971.
Screening of a documentary on the plight of 250,000 stranded
Pakistanis was the main attraction of the symposium. The documentary,
prepared by Obit Helpers, a US non-government organization,
shows the appalling conditions of the stranded Pakistanis
in refugee camps of Bangladesh. Obit Helpers is involved in
several projects to help the stranded Pakistanis. It has appealed
for generous donations for the stranded Pakistanis. Obit Helpers
can be contacted at 317-361-5096, Fax 317-837-0799.