Ottawa Bangladeshi Community Organizations:Our View*, Dr Emdad Khan
We moved to Ottawa in July 1996 with a courageous wife and four children after working 16 years in Bahrain as a university Professor. Bahrain was a blend of East and West but for better education of children and high-tech opportunity, we decided to make Ottawa, Canada’s capital, our new home. First few years, we and the children wanted to go back to Bahrain or Bangladesh except my wife. She motivated us to stay and build our life in Ottawa and after 20 years we are still here.
We got a job in high tech within few weeks, but life in Bahrain seemed to be better in few aspects of life and society. We, specially, as the head of the family got a hard time and felt depressed, to adjust in Ottawa life, although in early 1980s we got Ph. D from Manchester in England.
We knew one of ex-BUET professor was a faculty in Ottawa University, but was not able to meet him, instead met one young Bangladeshi Canadian in university cafeteria. He informed us about another professor of Carleton University. We could meet the professor and had long discussions about Canadian society and activities of Bangladeshi Canadian community.
Through him, in 1997, we got to know an organization, Canada Bangladesh Muslim Community (CBMC, http://www.cbmc-canada.org) which had 3 activities – weekly news about Bangladesh and Ottawa Bangladesh community, telecast recorded talk by a well-known Bangladeshi intellectual and hosting of yearly iftar gathering in a community hall. In 2017, after 20 years, CBMC yearly iftar gathering is enjoyed by over 500 persons with an address by one Ottawa based renown scholar. It does a set of activities like, indoor games for youths, an outdoor picnic, a blood donor clinic and spring cleaning for one site in Ottawa. During annual iftar gathering it holds essay completion and gives one Bangladeshi Canadian youth $1000 scholarship.
In summer of 1998, after intense efforts with few Ottawa families, we formed another community organization, Muslim Family gathering of Ottawa (MFGO- Halaqa) – do a monthly gathering rotating in different parts of city in a community hall – use the Canadian concept of Potluck lunch. Also have yearly picnic, iftar gathering and celebrate Eid Al-Fitr with ticket based dinner and Eid Al-Adha as potluck dinner. In 2017, still MFGO running smoothly with the above activities and last few years it started giving each year few scholarships in Bangladesh.
During our work as a Nortel employee, we realized, immigrant children needs education support, immigrants needs job search support and home-based small businesses needs publicity and a platform for selling the goods and a forum to socialize. In summer of 1999, we (myself with my wife and four children) and few others education minded persons, formed a registered non-profit organization, Muslim Community Services of Ottawa (MCSO). My wife passionately would organize, under MCSO, every year (1999-2007) pre-Eid Bazaar before Al Fitr and Eid Al-Adha, to support small home-based business in Bayshore, Ottawa Down town, Barrhaven, etc. by renting city community halls.
From 1999-2009, we would organize, under MCSO banner, tutoring for High school students in Math, science, English, French, Physics, Chemistry, etc. in Bayshore, Barrhaven, Downtown and East End by renting city community centers. We would hire university students as tutors with one of them acting as the director of one center and students would be charged $60-$100 per month for twice weekly sessions of two hours between 6pm to 9pm. The students would be grouped 1-1 or 1-2 or 1-3 based on subjects, capability and fees. We would hold a family pot luck monthly in Bayshore Minto Recreation center to listen to parents, students and create an atmosphere of listening ideas on education, job search and family issues. We would organize once in a year job search at Bayshore recreation center and lectures on job, education and family issues in Barrhaven Jockvale and Bayshore Community Centers. We would also hold Iftar gathering and picnic.
By seeing the benefit of the tutoring of their children, few parents started donating extra money to MCSO and some university students would donate back their pay as tutors. As we were determined to do the tutoring works as volunteers, after discussion with team members, we decided to use the extra fund in two ways – offer free studentship to selected students in each tutoring center, each of $60 to $100 and offer few scholarships to graduating high school students about $400-$600 to study in university. In 2009, we unregistered and stopped MCSO, and absorbed the tutoring and scholarship awarding programs in another registered non-profit and charity, South Nepean Muslim community (SNMC), to devote all energy and efforts to build SNMC community and mortar & brick, SNMC center and masjid (www.SNMC.ca).
Around 2008, some Ottawa Bangladeshi Canadians opened another registered, on-profit organization, Ottawa Bangladesh Muslim Funeral and Social Welfare Organization (http://www.obmfuneral.com). Its main objective is to be beside the family, when one of their dear ones departs in Ottawa or one of their relatives passed away in Bangladesh. They also facilitate allocation, based on monthly donation for few years, a grave plot to its members. It holds yearly completion of Bangladeshi Canadian youths on Quran Recitation. It has expanded last few years the welfare activities and raised over $30,000 for Syrian Refugee program and another $50,000 for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
Bangladeshi Canadians are cultural minded. They have many small group and some formal cultural organizations, some are registered, more are informal groups. Two such organizations are BCSO (Bangladesh Cultural Society of Ottawa) and Sanchari, Ottawa. Some of the activities of BCSO – can be observed in their 2014 picnic at YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_X9W46_RK0 and 2015 Baisakhi Fair at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mT2-LnAt2jU.
The other cultural organization, Sanchari, face book page, https://www.facebook.com/%E0%A6%B8%E0%A6%9E%E0%A7%8D%E0%A6%9A%E0%A6%BE%E0%A6%B0%E0%A7%80-Sanchari-147342625451124/. The Sanchari musical evening, can be found at YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZJiXEkyhVU.
In 2016, CBET team gave opportunity to CBMC, MFGO, BCSO and Sanchari to participate at Bangladesh Window undrr Rogers TV C22.
From 2008 to 2010, in private and public gatherings of Ottawa Bangladeshi Canadians, we passionately spoke about the benefits of learning the Quran with meaning and beautify the recitation, as well as develop strong moral and ethics among youths and integrate the youths with the main stream Canadian society to become law abiding and contributing Canadians. In 2010 summer we formed the home based informal community organization, BDQ. We used to hold home based monthly gathering in different parts of Ottawa and still passionately keep on motivating the gathered Bangladeshi Canadians, to think of a program of raising funds from Ottawa to award scholarships to needy students in rural Bangladesh. This scholarship idea, came from the success story of awarding scholarships. We motivated few families and formed in August 2013, registered non-profit organization, CBET (Canada Bangash Education Trust). In January 2014, it became a CRA Resisted charity organization (80114 6101 RR0001, www.CBET.ca). CBET from 2013 to 2017, within 5 years has awarded over 600 scholarships, each of $200 in Bangladesh and over 50 scholarships each of $500 to Ottawa High school graduates for university studies. In 2017, CBET constituted two scholarships each of $1,000 for Carleton University and Ottawa University, and one scholarship of $750 for Algonquin College.
CBET has a community TV program, Bangladesh Window, under Rogers TV Channel 22, run on 3rd Sunday at 9am, and 3rd Monday at 6pm and 4th Saturday at 6pm. CBET invites Bangladeshi Canadian youths, professionals, intellectuals, leaders of different Bangladeshi Canadian community organizations.
CBET also publishes an online monthly magazine, Canadian Dream (http://CanadainaDream.CBET.ca) which covers the dream, challenges and success stories of new Canadians of any faith, and any ethnicity.
CBET holds annually signature Youth Conference, Pitha Festival, Multiethnic Free 400+ persons Iftar Program, Fun day,Fund Raising Dinner, Volunteer Awards and High school Graduation Awards Ceremony and now Annual Young Professional Networks.
There are more Bangladeshi Canadian Community organizations in Ottawa, but we are not familiar with their activities. The Ottawa based Bangladeshi Canadian community organizations are, unlike Montreal or Toronto based organizations, are service – oriented, not based on Bangladesh political parties or based on different regions of Bangladesh. We are happy to conclude that many of the organizations are working to integrate Bangladeshi immigrants as law abiding contributing Canadians and also working to give back to Canadian Society as well as to give back to back home Bangladesh society.
*Views expressed in this article of different organizations are the author personal observations.