On April 18, 2018 the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) voted unanimously to recognize November as Hindu Heritage Month. This is pursuant to the Province of Ontario recognizing November as Hindu Heritage Month in December 2016. means that the over 500 schools in the board will celebrate Hindu heritage, in some form or another every November.
Over the past several years the TDSB has recognized many religions and heritages – for example, Black, Judaism, Islam, Greek, South Asian, Sikh and Indigenous (also in November). The purpose of this program is to educate students about the diverse cultural heritages that make up the school population. The Board aims to promote a prejudice-free environment where all students and staff feel valued and there is mutual respect among the diverse religious groups.
The celebration of heritage months is regulated by the board policy and is conducted in accordance with guidelines and parameters set by the Board’s administration. A committee composed of staff, parents and community will be created to plan and implement the Hindu Heritage Month activities.
The passing of the motion is important because it recognizes the contributions of over 200,000 Hindus who live in Toronto. More importantly, the celebration allows Hindu students to see their religion represented in their own school and therefore feel proud of their culture and tradition.
Further to making the motion, which was seconded by Trustee Avatar Minhas, Trustee Parthi Kandeval, began by recognizing Hindu community representatives Ragini Sharma and Sanjay Verma for their advocacy for introducing this motion. He also thanked the many people from the diverse Hindu community who were present. There were 50-60 people, from diverse Hindu communities, present in the boardroom to witness and show support for this historical event.
Speaking for five minutes on the motion, Trustee Kandeval said that Hinduism was the oldest and third largest religion in the world, with over 1.1 billion adherents worldwide. He pointed out that the Hindus, who come from broad range of backgrounds of language and culture, have freedom on religion in how they practice their faith. Hinduism value reason and science and Hindu have contributed greatly to world civilization. He gave the example of ancient seers knowing about the existence of the nine-planets thousands of years ago before Galileo was persecuted for talking about it. Hindus had known about the creation of universe millions of years ago, something now explained by scientists as the big bang theory. The discovery of concept of zero came from the Hindu belief in the idea infinity of the universe. Words such as guru, mantra and karma are Hindu terms that have influenced popular culture. More importantly, the world now recognizes the health benefits of yoga, meditation and mindfulness. Trustee Kandeval comments about Hindu text of Kama Sutras as an advance sex education manual brought out laughter among those present. On a more serious note, he explained that the term Hindu is a colonial term, and that Sanatana Dharma, which translates loosely as eternal path or purpose, was the correct term for this living tradition. Sanatana dharma teaches that Hindus to live for a higher purpose – towards self-actualization. He ended with linking the high ideals of Hinduism to those of the Board.
Several Trustee, including Trustees Abdul Hai Patel, Ausma Malik, David Smith, Tiffany Ford, Sheila Cary-Meagher, spoke to give strong support to the motion. Trustee Pamela Gough stated that TDSB was a secular board and she expressed concerns about too many religions being added. However, Director of Education, John Malloy, assured Trustees that staff had implemented parameters and guidelines for the smooth integration of the heritage celebrations in the school curriculum. The motion was passed with unanimous support.