Thousands of Indo-Canadians joined in advance celebrations of India’s Independence Day at Toronto on Monday as Bollywood actress Neetu Chandra led the community parade in the heart of the biggest city in Canada.
As its Grand Parade Marshal, Neetu led the India Day parade which included nine colourful floats for the first time in five years. Indian television actor and host Shabir Ahluwalia was the chief guest.
“Last year, I was the Grand Parade Marshal in New York, and this year I am honoured to be here with you for India Day in Toronto,” said Neetu who surprised everyone when she said she holds two black belts in Taekwondo.
Put together by Panorama India with the support of the Indian Consulate General and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), the day-long cultural extravaganza showcased India’s diversity through about 250 artists with their diverse performances.
Opening the celebrations with the unfurling of the Indian flag and the singing of the Indian and Canadian national anthem, Indian consul general Dinesh Bhatia said this celebration is not just about India’s 69th Independence Day but also about the celebrations of the world’s oldest civilization and its diversity.
The Indian consul general said when he took charge at the Toronto consulate five months ago, he wanted to ramp up the India Day celebrations to make them as big as in New York.
“Toronto has the largest concentration of the Indian diaspora anywhere in North America. So why shouldn’t be the India Independence Day celebrations be the biggest here?” he said.
Andhra-born Dipika Damerla, who is minister for seniors in the Ontario ministry, said every day should be a day of celebrations for the Indians.
“India has so much to celebrate because it is one of the oldest civilisations of the world. Sixty-nine years is just a blip on this ancient civilisation,” she said.
Damerla also read the message from her Premier Kathleen Wynne for the occasion.
Ontario opposition leader Patrick Brown, who is considered the closest friend of India in Canadian politics, was dressed in a Modi-like jacket for the occasion. And he didn’t miss to point this out to the audience who applauded in his praise.
Brown said he is a great fan of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“That’s why I am wearing the Modi jacket today,” he said.
The crowd cheered when Brown said: “I have been to India not one time, not two times, not three times…I have been to India sixteen times.”
“In 2011, they made me an honorary citizen of Gujarat…so I am half Gujju.,” he added.
Toronto Police chief Mark Saunders praised the Indo-Canadian community for adding to the diversity of Toronto.