|Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks at Diwali celebrations in Mississauga, Ont. on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013. |
(Frank Gunn / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
“I have to say it’s wonderful to see so many people here.
“So first of all, so many, many familiar faces, but also many, many more new ones gathered together to mark Diwali, the 'Festival of Lights'.
“Although, as you know, people of several different traditions celebrate Diwali, I know this festival is especially important to the hundreds of thousands of Hindus living across Canada, so let me begin by wishing all our Hindu friends and everyone celebrating this festival a very happy Diwali.
“And friends, let me just take a moment to offer a few special greetings to Consul General of India, Mishra, to other eminent members of the diplomatic corps, respected pundits and religious leaders present, distinguished guests from all levels of government, Mayor Fennell, all of my colleagues from the Parliament of Canada, obviously Minister Alexander, Minister Kenney and so many others who have joined us here today.
“And – go ahead give them a big hand, it’s a great turn out – and of course most notably, my introducer and our principal organizer, the Honourable Deepak Obhrai.
“Now Deepak, as you all know – and let me just say this, it needs to be said, Chris said a bit about it – that Deepak has been the host of Ottawa’s Diwali celebration on the Hill for more than 10 years.
“During that time, he has, more than any person, been instrumental in making this festival a popular pan-Canadian tradition.
“So popular that this year, for the very first time, we’ve had to move our celebration off of the confines of Parliament Hill, all the way out of Ottawa to here in Mississauga.
“Now, friends, I’ve attended many Diwali celebrations, as Deepak has noted – in fact he’s been counting over the years – but this is easily the biggest and the best one yet, so congratulations to Deepak and all the members of the GTA Caucus.
“It’s a job very well done.
“Now, ladies and gentlemen, exactly one year ago, as you know, Laureen and I were in India.
“That was my second trip to that country, and also the longest tour I’ve taken of any country as Prime Minister.
“I was there to talk trade and energy with Prime Minister Singh, and to announce our plans to open a new consulate in Bangalore, and to show how our Government is putting India at the centre of Canada’s Asia policy.
“One of the most memorable parts of that trip was our tour of the beautiful Sri Someshwara Temple in Bangalore.
“During that tour I also recalled with great fondness our visit three years earlier to New Delhi’s stunning Swaminarayan Temple.
“I thought even farther back to the time when I had the great honour to officially open the BAPS Mandir, right here in the GTA.
“It is a very impressive complex that stands as a testament to the accomplishments and contributions of our Indo-Canadian community, not just in this region, but right across our vast country.
“And let me just say to everybody present, I know that most of you are from the community, but particularly to the media, I say to everyone, anyone who has a chance to come to the GTA, should visit that temple.
“It is a tremendous monument for this country.
“A monument, in particular, as I said to our Indo-Canadian community, men and women, who, through their ingenuity, hard work and entrepreneurship are contributing to Canada’s prosperity.
“Men and women, who, through their commitment to family, faith and community, are helping to build a better Canada, men and women just like you.
“So congratulations for that.
“Let me also thank you for all that you are doing to make Canada more prosperous, stronger, and more united, to make us the best country in the world!
“My friends, today as we celebrate Diwali, which is, as you all know, the victory of good over evil, the triumph of light over darkness, this is a hopeful time.
“It is a time to dispel fear and ignorance, and to embrace hope and truth, a time to be generous and charitable to those less fortunate among us.
“This Diwali season, let us be thankful, first and foremost, for the health and safety of our families.
“Let us also be thankful for the opportunity to call this country, our Canada, home.
“A country where all citizens enjoy equality of opportunity, a country unwavering in its commitment to freedom, democracy, and justice, a country that is a model of peace, pluralism and prosperity.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your country, this is my country, a country of which we can all be very proud, a country to which you are making a tremendous contribution.
“So thank you once again for being here.
“Happy Diwali, everyone!