Canada Day is a celebration of the creation of Canada, which occurred on July 1, 1867. Brampton’s seniors, meanwhile, have been celebrating Canada Day for the entire month. These celebrations take place in seniors clubs and public parks, with anywhere from a few dozen to several hundred seniors in attendance.
Canada Day celebrations in seniors clubs provide opportunities for attendees to reflect on and appreciate the circumstances that brought them to Canada, a country they greatly appreciate. Meetings include poetry and songs in Punjabi that speak of Punjab and Canada, how beautiful Canada is, how much the seniors miss Punjab, how grateful they are that they can practice their native culture in a different country. The seniors proudly sing the national anthems of Canada and India, usually putting Canada’s first. Brampton seniors discuss their political concerns, like how they have to pay rent for their community centres while neighboring cities like Mississauga provide such clubs to their seniors for free. Seniors don’t have shuttles that run service to the clubs either, which is of great concern for those with reduced mobility and for transit consideration during hot summer days and cold winter months. Of course, these gatherings provide opportunities for politicians to pitch their campaigns. Politicians, whether Punjabi or not, evoke Pierre Trudeau, father of Canada’s policy of multiculturalism, who paved the way for the large contingents of immigrant populations in the region. Jon Sprovieri, Regional Councillor of wards 9 and 10 in Brampton, comments on how he has seen Brampton celebrate Canada Day more than any other city.
These functions fly two flags, speak of two countries, but treat Canada as home. Brampton is an accidental experiment in suburban development, a city that grew too fast for its planners to properly keep up. This city has seen its population explode in the past few decades, leading to a town densely populated by 100,000 Punjabis. Seniors often live in the same houses as their grandchildren, creating bilingual households, the immigrant parents and grandparents speaking Punjabi, the Canadian-born, English. The Canadian-born, ideally, grow up fluently bilingual, but their grandparents are reasonably anxious about how well this generation will retain its mother tongue. Seniors clubs conduct their meetings in Punjabi, though they address the concerns of Brampton, an overgrown suburb with no university of its own. A residential colony whose economy is sustained by housing developments. The accounting jobs are all in Mississauga, the education in Toronto. Seniors bring up these topics out of concern for their grandchildren and for the place they call home. Tables in the back of the hall, or underneath a side tent, house pakoras, samosas, jalebis, Coke, Sprite, all drinks served in Styrofoam cups. The seniors turn to Indian politics, opening discussions over chai or instant coffee and cards: the troubling drug culture in Punjab, the Parliamentary majority of the BJP, the political parties in control of Punjab. As in AKakaAmazing’s mock news segments, the political concerns of Brampton and Punjab exist side by side, the flags of Canada and India flying proudly together. Canada Day for the city of Brampton is as much a celebration of Canada’s founding as it is of the community’s Punjabi heritage, the concerns of both very much alive among its senior members.