Borough resident Dipak Dhar, owner of Masala Palace on Queen Mary, moved to Montreal from Bangladesh some 30 years ago. President of the Bangladesh Press Club of Montreal, he’s in continuous contact with friends and members of the press back in the former East Pakistan.
Usually these long distance phone calls are routine, leisurely talks about present-day news and discussions of current topics.
On April 24 of this year the conversation suddenly changed.
News broke of the Rana Plaza tragedy after the eight-story commercial building collapsed near the capital Dhaka, killing at least 1000 workers, and the NDG resident knew he had to find a way to help.
“That very week we had a meeting, a gathering of the Bangladeshi community here in Montreal, and we started talking about what we could do,” Dhar said.
From that meeting sprung a threefold plan that Dhar knew needed to be put into action.
First, Bangladeshi-Canadians in Montreal began collecting and sending money to the victims. According to Dhar, most donations were sent through the Red Cross, to make sure it would be used and distributed properly.
“Hopefully, we can help the nearly 2000 who are injured,” he said.
“Right now everybody is talking about this, so it’s getting a lot of attention and help. But those who are injured, people who just lost their leg, their arm, they’re coming from very poor families with no support from anyone else and no workers insurance.”
Dhar worries that when it comes time for these people to find money for treatments and rehab, the attention will have mostly died down and they’ll be stuck without http://www.phpaide.com/demos/PowerPetition/ any help or options.
Secondly, Dhar says the Bangladeshi communities in Canada are committed to raising local awareness of the effect that a boycott on garments prepared in Bangladesh would have.
“These people still need this industry to survive,” he said.
Lastly, he says that the Bangladeshi community is working on formally requesting that the Canadian government stress transparent policies when it comes to buying from the textile industry in Bangladesh, adding that more inspections are necessary.
Locally, Snowdon councillor Marvin Rotrand shares similar views, already having sent a letter to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and other federal representatives, calling on Canada to act. “I have constituents who trace their origins to Bangladesh, and though it isn’t the largest, the Bangladeshi community here in the borough is growing.”
“It’s important to recognize the concerns of the groups of people that constitute our community, and I consider myself well placed to urge elected officials to take action,” he added.
For those who would like to help, Dhar says the community is accepting monetary donations that can be sent to those in need in Bangladesh. For further information on when the Bangladeshi community will be meeting next in CDN-NDG, residents can call 514-583-3918.
Photo: Jesse Feith