History and Background

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History and Background

The earliest settlers from Bangladesh arrived in Halifax more than half-a-century ago.  They were an eclectic group of professionals, ranging from an airline officer, a library science professor at Dalhousie to a PhD qualified metallurgist.  The most notable among this pioneering group was a radiologist whose passion, however, was in real estate, developing Nelson’s Landing in Bedford among many other projects to eventually become the largest residential landlord in Nova Scotia.  This small group of Bangladeshis fraternized mainly with the more numerous Indian, Pakistani and Arab communities of Halifax at the time, keeping their rich cultural roots largely hidden.

Things changed in the 1980s.  By then, the Bangladeshi community had grown, but more importantly it began to identify itself as a distinct cultural entity, proud of its heritage, but also loyal first-generation Canadians, pursuing careers, raising families, and establishing deep and lasting roots in Nova Scotia.  There were regular picnics and cultural events, but these were of an informal nature organized by a handful of enthusiastic volunteers in their homes and backyards, and in the beautiful parks surrounding Halifax.  By the 1990s, this group had grown substantially, so events to celebrate the Bengali New Year or the Independence Day of Bangladesh had to be held in community centers and church auditoriums.  Children and adults would sing and dance to popular tunes, play musical instruments, recite poetry and enjoy elaborate meals together to celebrate their heritage and build camaraderie.  Those were happy and uncomplicated times.  Informal methods of communication by email and telephone were sufficient to pull off relatively spectacular functions!  The growing community was still quite small though, perhaps no more than one hundred.

With the advent of the twenty-first century and the further passage of time leading to 2010 and beyond, the community continued to grow, but at a much faster rate.  It was proving to be increasingly difficult to keep track of newcomers and organize events that would be inclusive.  Calls to form an organized structure became louder and louder.  Informal methods of communication were no longer adequate.  Even those who enjoyed the simplicity of impromptu celebrations or organizing functions on short notice began to realize the need for an organized structure to better serve and galvanize the community.  The trickle of Bangladeshis of past years from the motherland to Halifax had become a torrent, increasing rapidly with each passing year.  Meanwhile, the spirit of the community and the sense of a common identity continued to thrive and flourish, creating the perfect launching pad for what was to follow.

To meet the demands of the rapidly increasing number of immigrant families in Halifax and its vicinity, local volunteers had been organizing for a number of years various events under an informal banner known as the Halifax Bangladeshi Friends and Families while continuing to encourage broader participation.  Their hope was that this would eventually morph into a more durable and permanent entity helped along by the strength in numbers.

As it turned out, the cries to form a registered organization to better serve the Bangladeshi community in Halifax and elsewhere finally bore fruit in the spring of 2019 with the formation of the Bangladesh Canada Friendship Society.  For many, the dream has now become a reality with this landmark recognition by all levels of government providing the community with a formal and distinct identity and the ability to serve each other better for the benefit of all.

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