Haligonians celebrated International Mother Language Day on Sunday with ceremonies honouring the rich culture of Bangladesh.
The day highlights the importance of linguistic and cultural diversity but draws its roots in the Bengali Language Movement of the early 1950s.
It’s celebrated annually on February 21, the day that student protesters were killed by police for supporting Bengali as an official language of what was, at the time, the Dominion of Pakistan. It was 1952, and Urdu was the only official language recognized by the government, which had forbidden public meetings and rallies to quell the tension rising among Bengali speakers.
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Taking place on Feb. 24, the ceremonies at the Halifax Central Library were a little late, but organizers said they’re indispensable to Nova Scotia’s Bangladeshi diaspora.
“The importance is to carry over the message that the Bangladeshi community in Halifax, own their proud history of sacrificing for the mother language, and now it is prime important for Canada to promote multiculturalism and multi-languageism,” co-ordinator Azharul Hoque.
Celebrating linguistic and cultural diversity in #Halifax at International Mother Language Day event. A rich global holiday, with roots in the Bengali Language Movement of the 1950s. #language #diversity #Bangladeshi #Bengali pic.twitter上海龙凤419/xPjxTcsleS
— Elizabeth McSheffrey (@emcsheff) February 24, 2019
It’s especially important for the children, he added, to be immersed in their language and culture, and learn the history of their country.
“That actually defined the nature of our nation, like what we would like to be,” explained Ahsan Habib, chair of the Bangladesh Community Association of Nova Scotia, and a Bengali author.
“From that starting movement, that started this independence movement from Pakistan at that time.”
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The International Mother Language Day event included speeches from provincial cabinet ministers Randy Delorey and Leo Glavine, who represent the Gaelic affairs and communities, cultures and heritage portfolios respectively.
The day was dedicated to the preservation and support of the Mi’kmaw language.
It was the second event of its kind in Halifax, and organizers hope to continue the trend, drawing a larger and more diverse crowd every year.