A Quarter Century of BCAE: Accomplishments and Successes

S. A. Ali, M. A. Taher and S. Huda

Bangladesh Canada Association of Edmonton (BCAE) is a socio-cultural organization.  BCAE also promotes and maintains Bangladeshi heritage. The general purpose of this organization is to sustain and promote Bangladeshi culture and heritage in Edmonton in particular and Alberta and Canada in general. It also allows the Bangladeshi community living in and around Edmonton an opportunity to get together and socialize and celebrate Bangladeshi culture and heritage at least a couple of times a year.

BCAE emerged as a registered organization by the Province of Alberta in 1979, a year or two after its actual initiation. There was a Bangladesh Association prior to that, where a very small number of Bangladeshis participated and carried out some important and critical activities. With the departure of a good number of members, the then association became dormant and eventually inactive. Two members of that association who are with us today are Mr. SiddiqueHossain and Mrs. Shahana Hossain. As far as we know, some of the other members were Prof. M. A. Mannan (former Vice-Chancellor of Dhaka University), Dr. N. C. Das and Mr. Nehaluddin. The official date of registration of BCAE is the basis of our celebration today.

With the arrival of new students and in the presence of some immigrant (non-student) families in late 1977, it was again felt the need to form an association for Bangladeshis residing in Edmonton. The majority of Bangladeshi residents at that time were students. Some of the interested and enthusiastic members of this idea were A. F. Raisur Rahman, Anwarul Islam, Abdur Rashid Moten, Shamsul Huda, Kamal Rashid, Tapan Chowdhury and a few others Bangladeshis.

The name of the association formed at that time was Bangladesh Canada Association of Edmonton (BCAE), which obtained its registration as a non-profit society from the Province of Alberta on September 18, 1979. A scanned version of the Certificate of Incorporation is presented on a separate page. To institutionalize the organization, a set of objectives and a set of by-laws were developed following the guidelines of the Societies Act 1970 and submitted for approval and registration to the Corporate Registry, Province of Alberta. The signatories of that application are: A. F. Raisur Rahman, Anwarul Islam, Shamsul Huda, Kamal Rashid and M. Rafique Islam. The witness of these signatures was Suraiya Afroze Islam. A scanned version of the original signatures is provided below.

The objectives of the association are:

(a)                To project a fair image of Bangladesh abroad.

(b)               To foster and develop understanding and friendships among various groups of people in the community.

(c)                To provide for the recreation of the members and to promote and offer opportunity for friendly and social activities.

(d)               To hold social and cultural functions as the members consider proper and fit.

(e)                To perform, promote and carry on any activities, which are essential for, or incidental to the fulfillment of the above objectives.

Over the last quarter century, BCAE had to cross lots of hurdles and overcome lots of difficulty. But the sincerity and dedication of its members have been instrumental to overcome such difficulty. Positive and constructive forces have always been in the forefront of this organization. As a result, despite some bumpy roads, BCAE has been able to grow and flourish with respect to its size and its quality and quantity of performances. Today, we salute and thank each and every member of our association, past and present, for his or her contribution towards the survival and well-being of the association. It is an organization that has come to stay. It has now grown from a few members to over 300. The demographics of its memberships have also changed. Now, we have members of all ages, of various professions and with a multitude of ideas. Even though Bangladeshi community is small, it is one of the most vibrant and qualified society in Edmonton. Most members of this society are well-educated and highly qualified professionals in various fields.

Since its inception and formalization, BCAE’s by-laws have been modified and amended couple of times to reflect the changes in cultural needs and abilities. The objectives, however, remain intact. The members of the community have been committed to adhere to and uphold those objectives. Today, BCAE executives plan and execute activities keeping the same objectives in front. The objectives, what originally guided a group of visionaries, still guide the entire community to stay on course and to foster and prosper on those ideas.

BCAE started functioning as a small organization with limited activities. Overtime, it has grown in terms of its memberships as well as its activities. At times, it used to hold meetings and gatherings in private basements, small common rooms and community halls. Now it needs large community halls, bigger kitchens, large stage for performances etc. The number of events and celebrations has also increased substantially.

Successes and Accomplishments

The success of an organization depends on how actively and efficiently it fulfils its objectives. Let’s take this opportunity to review, after the past 25 years of its registration, how it performed in terms of fulfilling its objectives. We’ll take each and every objective and analyze it separately.

(a)               To project a fair image of Bangladesh abroad. 

BCAE has been instrumental to project a fair image of Bangladesh to the people of Edmonton in particular; and to the people of Alberta and Canada in general. Since its inception, it has been presenting its culture and heritage through the participation in the Edmonton Heritage Festival. All members of BCAE should be proud of its participation in the Heritage Festival. Although Bangladesh is not a rich or a large or a powerful country; it has a rich history and culture. And the BCAE has been able to successfully present that to the people of Canada through its participation in the Heritage Festival. BCAE also participates in several other activities organized by the City of Edmonton, or by other multi-cultural organizations. Recently, it has participated in the Heritage Showcase organized in the Triathlon Competition and Klondike Festival. Next year, it will participate in the Asia-Pacific Gala organized by the Asia Pacific Accord of Canada. Because of its fair image, BCAE received invitation form the Provincial ministers, Federal MPs, City governments, Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, and many others.  

(b)               To foster and develop understanding and friendships among various groups of people in the community. 

BCAE has been a forum of understanding, exchanging views and ideas. It also helps those who are in desperate need. It organizes social gatherings at least half a dozen times a year, where people of all ages and professions get opportunities to socialize, eat, drink, relax and chit-chat. It has also been a forum of sharing happiness and grief of our members. Through appropriate communication processes and sometimes informal gatherings our members share their grief and receive help for healing. BCAE also communicates good news to our community members, i.e., birth announcements, job promotions, award of scholarships, degrees, diplomas, certificates and other credentials.

(c)                To provide for the recreation of the members and to promote and offer opportunity for friendly and social activities. 

BCAE has been active in providing opportunities for recreational facilities to its members and to offer atmosphere for friendly and social activities. The most important event of doing such activities is the Annual Picnic. It has become tradition that BCAE holds an annual picnic, typically in outdoor, where food, beverages and recreation opportunities for all ages are provided. After having traditional food and drink, children get an opportunity to have their own set of games and activities. Similar entertaining activities are also arranged for men and women. At least for a day, BCAE members get an opportunity to get away from their busy schedule and have fun with their friends and compatriots. Children also get their share of opportunity to show their talents in other celebratory activities. They participate in various capacities in the celebration of International Mother Language Day (February 21), Mother’s Day, Nazrul-Rabindra Jayanti, Heritage Festival, Heritage Appreciation Gathering, etc. They also receive special presents at Eid parties.

(d)               To hold social and cultural functions as the members consider proper and fit. 

BCAE holds more than half a dozen social functions a year. They routinely hold a couple of cultural functions a year. In addition, BCAE holds at least two grand cultural functions: one to celebrate the International Mother Language Day, and another on the occasion of Bengali New Year and Rabindra-Nazrul Jayanti. In some years, it is not uncommon to hold several additional cultural programs.

The quality of cultural programs held by BCAE today is also worth mentioning. Today, BCAE members have talents in singing, dancing, acting, playing instruments, recitation, telling jokes, and so on. We have now reached a point where BCAE is unable to allow all of its willing members to participate in a two-hour cultural program. The reputation of our quality program is no more restricted within us. Our cultural talents are now known in many other communities and we regularly receive invitation from several other communities to participate. We are proud of our talented members, and extend our thanks to them.   

(e)                To perform, promote and carry on any activities, which are essential for, or incidental to the fulfillment of the above objectives. 

Over the years, BCAE has performed appropriately to uphold, promote and carry on its objectives. Despite several hurdles and difficult times, BCAE has always been focused on its objectives. We feel proud and fortunate being members of this great organization. It is our anticipation that each and every current and past member feels the same way. Again, we particularly salute those visionary founders of this association.


Other Activities and Achievements:

BCAE performs several other activities to maintain and uphold the spirit and heritage of the community, which are not easily classifiable under the objectives stated earlier. It has some unique and special achievements in such cases, and the discussion of successes and achievements of BCAE will be incomplete without those. The following is a brief account of such accomplishments of BCAE. 

(a)                Liaison with the Bangladesh High Commission – BCAE maintains a continuous communication with the Bangladesh High Commission in Ottawa. It communicates its executives, sends copies of its publications (Edmonton Bichitra) to the high commission library and seeks advice for Bangladeshis living in Edmonton. BCAE has been including High Commissioner’s messages in almost all of its publications.

(b)               Charitable donations to Bangladesh – BCAE and its members periodically make donations to different charitable organizations in Bangladesh. Many times BCAE raised funds for the victims of floods and other natural disasters in Bangladesh. It also contributed its own funds to such causes. In some years, BCAE obtained matching grants from the provincial government and doubled the amount of charitable donations. Several individual members of BCAE make donations to charitable activities in Bangladesh on a regular basis.

(c)                Running Bangla School – BCAE runs a Sunday school, Edmonton Bangla School, to provide a unique opportunity to the community children for learning Bengali language and becoming familiar with Bangladeshi culture and heritage. The school originally started in 1984, ran a few years and then became dormant. After several years, with the increase of community members and their children, the school reincarnated. Currently, Edmonton Bangla School has almost two dozens students, who regularly participate in various cultural activities conducted by BCAE.

(d)               Maintaining Attractive Website – BCAE maintains an attractive and dynamic website (http://www.bcae.ca) to project its image and to introduce its activities to the world. The website now contains valuable information on BCAE. It is expected that more information will be added to this website soon to update and to make it even more attractive. It may be mentioned here thatBCAE’s website is not only self sustaining but also a good source of generating revenue forBCAE activities. Every year, BCAE receives at least a few hundred dollars from advertisements posted on its website. 

(e)                Publishing Edmonton Bichitra – The publication of Edmonton Bichitra, a four-monthly magazine of BCAE, has become routine.  Overtime, the magazine has also improved substantially in terms of its quality and quantity. From a single or a few photocopied pages it has now become a full-blown professionally printed magazine. It serves as a means of communication within BCAE memberships as well as with the rest of the world. It also allows us to express our community members in various matters.


What’s Next

For the past quarter century, BCAE’s achievement has been remarkable. That does not, however, mean that it should not do anything more. We believe, BCAE’s previous performances warrant that it should continue to prosper and move forward with clear objective and vision. The community is growing and growing fast. We have already grown enough that we can not celebrate our community events other than Pleasantview Community Hall. All other halls have become insufficient or small for us. Within few years, BCAE will have hard time to accommodate its members in Pleasantview. It is time to think about a community hall of its own. We know that Rome was not built in a day nor will our hall. But as the Chinese saying goes, “a journey of thousand miles begins with the first step.”  If we begin now, we will hopefully be able to leave something for our children. While celebrating BCAE’s Silver Anniversary, we sincerely propose and appeal to all BCAE members to create a fund so that it can have its own Home in future. Let’s work to ensure that it will celebrate its Golden Anniversary in its own hall.

For an organization like this, funding is always a constraint. We should explore avenues to obtain matching funds form federal and provincial governments to foster multiculturalism and run programs to help new immigrants.

BCAE did an excellent job of jointly leading Bangla Utsab with Eddmonton Bengali Association. Not only the event provided two days of excellent cultural event, it brought us closer to otherBangalis in Edmonton and its surrounding cities. We should continue the tradition of holding Bangla Utsab every other year.