Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada celebrating Diwali

Ottawa, Ontario
20 October 2011

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the following remarks during the Parliament Hill Diwali celebration:

“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a real pleasure to be here and to celebrate Diwali with all of you.

“First off, I’d like to thank the man who had the vision for the first ever Parliament Hill Diwali celebration.

“And now, after a lot of hard work, 11 years later, it’s bigger and better than ever, thanks to Deepak Obhrai.

“Deepak has a real talent for bringing people together.

“That’s why he does such a great job with this event; that’s why he does so much for his riding; and that’s also why he is an outstanding Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs.

“But most important, Deepak and Neena have raised a wonderful family.

“They are an Indo-Canadian success story and they can both be especially proud of their third-generation Canadian Obhrais.

“Their family keeps growing.  And so does this annual celebration.

“With more than 25 Hindu temples and community organizations from Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto, tonight’s event is a perfect example of the spirit that unites
the Indo-Canadian community.

“Not just for Diwali, but all year long.

“I’d like to thank the India-Canada Association of the National Capital Region and Indo-Canadian Ottawa Business Chamber for making tonight possible.

“This is a terrific celebration, not only of Diwali, but also of the important contribution that one million Indo-Canadians make in communities across the country.

“And I would especially like to thank – I know we would all like to thank - the Indian High Commission for sponsoring tonight’s entertainment.

“I could not have imagined a better way to mark the grand finale of the “Year of India in Canada.

“Of course, we began that journey together right here at this museum
back in March.

“From here, events spread right across Canada from Halifax to Victoria.

“Over the last few months Canadians from all walks of life have enjoyed a unique opportunity to celebrate the richness of India’s art, music and dance.

“And I know that the Year of India has raised the interest of many Canadians in travelling to India.

“And I do hope this interest in travel between our two countries grows, because my own time in India was a real experience.

“From the excitement of the set of Dance Premier League in Mumbai, to the solemnity of the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi at Raj Ghat, to the awe of the Swaminarayan Akshardham temple in New Delhi, my short time in India provided one memorable and moving experience after another.

“And I’m pleased to observe that the visit was reciprocated.  Last year Prime Minster Singh came to Toronto.

“Under Prime Minister Singh’s leadership, India is well on the way to becoming
an economic superpower.

“The South Asian Tiger is growing stronger every day.

“And that’s why our Government has opened new trade missions throughout India.

“But there’s always more to do.

“That’s why Prime Minister Singh and I have begun a historic initiative: the launch of negotiations aimed at producing a comprehensive free trade and economic partnership agreement between our two great countries.

“And I have to give credit where credit is due.

“Right from the day he came to Ottawa, nobody has worked longer and harder to promote freer trade with India than our own Deepak Obhrai.

“Ladies and gentlemen, Canada and India are natural partners. We are both proud members of the Commonwealth.

“We share the Westminster System of parliamentary democracy.

“We believe in the ingenuity of federalism to accommodate regional differences in a united country.

“And of course we both value the pluralism and diversity of our societies.

“Those values are at the core of the warm relationship between Canada and India.

“And that’s not all that we share.

“In today’s world we enjoy, more and more, the same entertainment.

“Bollywood movies are now followed by people of all backgrounds.

“And both countries love my good friend Akshay Kumar.

“And, let me do a plug. If you haven’t seen it, his new movie Breakaway is a great cross of Bollywood and Hollywood movie cultures, and a interesting insight on the contribution of Indo-Canadians to our country’s identity.

“So, ladies and gentlemen, there is no better time to celebrate that contribution than Diwali.

“The Festival of Lights is celebrated not only by Hindus, but also Sikhs, Jains, Buddists and others around the world.

“Everyone can celebrate the victory of good over evil and light over darkness.

“The lights, which symbolize that triumph, make for a uniquely warm celebration.

“Diwali – with its oil lamps, fireworks, gifts and sweets – weaves together important symbols.

“Together, they tell a sacred story, unite families, and provide us all with a vivid demonstration of the Indo-Canadian contribution to the life of this country.

“So, in closing, on behalf of all Canadians, I want to take this opportunity to extend my best wishes for a happy, healthy, bright and colourful Diwali to all of you and to your families.

“Namaste.”