At least 10,000 people gathered at the Dundas Square in the heart of downtown Toronto on August 9 to celebrate the 62nd anniversary of India's Independence Day despite intermittent showers.
Coincidentally, it was also the 10th anniversary of the founding of Panorama India, an umbrella community organization.
The Independence Day parade and daylong celebrations were sponsored jointly by Panorama India and the Indian consulate general in Toronto.
Preeti Saran, India's consul general in Toronto, was elated with the turnout, a sea of Indo-Canadians and others who gathered at the Dundas Square waving Indian and Canadian national flags and placards of their respective states in India, or their local organizations.
"This is very unique for me," Saran told Rediff India Abroad.
"As a representative of my government, my country, I feel I am not alone here. There are over 1 million Indian ambassadors here in this country and there are also 1 million of them who represent Canada in India because they [Indo-Canadians] are a huge bridge [between Canada and India]. There are second and third generation Indo-Canadians who are fully integrated in the mainstream of the Canadian society and yet they get immense strength from their country of origin."
Many federal and provincial politicians and community leaders attended the event.
Ontario Education Minister Kathleen Wynne, who wore an embroidered salwar kameez, told Rediff India Abroad that she was "so proud to represent large number of Indo-Canadians/South Asians" of her Don Valley West provincial riding.
"It's so wonderful to be here," she said. "I thank you, members of the Indo-Canadian community, for your dedication to democracy which makes a huge difference to us. Thank you for your understanding of diversity. I think Canada, with all its diversity, also looks to India to understand diverse population. And as Ontario's minister of education I would say thank you for your commitment to education your children are well taken care of in our education system."
Member of Parliament Kirsky Duncan, who represents the heavily South Asian riding of Etobicoke North, was also dressed in a salwar kameez.
She told the gathering: 'Mera parivar, namaste [hello, my family members], it is such an honor to be here. Mera nam Kirsky [my name is Kirsky] and congratulations on the 62nd anniversary of India's Independence. Thank you for teaching me your culture, your languages.'
Harinder Takhar, Ontario's minister of government services, read out a message from Premier Dalton McGuinty: 'On behalf of the government of Ontario I am delighted to extend warm greetings to everyone attending Panorama India's 10th anniversary and celebrations of India's Independence. We are very fortunate to have a vibrant Indo-Canadian community.'
Ajit Khanna, co-chair, Panorama India and former president, Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce, said, 'Ten years ago, Panorama India was started to fill a need in the cultural arena in the Greater Toronto Area. Today, after an incredible amount of work by dedicated board members and other volunteers, it has carved a place in the hearts of many cultural organisations in Toronto and the surrounding towns, cities and municipalities.'