Canadian province British Columbia backs off from Modi's yoga event

  • Anirudh Bhattacharyya, Hindustan Times, Toronto
  • Updated: Jun 13, 2015 19:36 IST

Days after announcing its goal of hosting the largest International Day of Yoga or IDY celebration outside India, the government of the Canadian province of British Columbia yanked the welcome mat away, following protests over the event planned for June 21.

Just a few days ago, the Premier of British Columbia, a province on Canada’s west coast, placed her government’s backing behind the “goal of hosting the largest IDY celebration outside of India” on June 21, which was dubbed ‘Om the Bridge’. After facing a political backlash, she withdrew her government’s participation in the event on Friday.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's initiative, the Yoga Day, will see events in India as well as in 192 other countries, making it the biggest event ever for which the government has also applied to the Guinness World Records.

In a statement, Premier Christy Clark said, “Yoga is about attaining inner peace and harmony. Our intention was to join with other centres around the world in celebrating the United Nations' International Day of Yoga in that spirit. Unfortunately, the focus of the proposed Burrard Street Bridge event has drifted towards politics - getting in the way of the spirit of community and inner reflection. It was for that reason, I decided not to participate.”

The planned venue, the historic Burrard Street Bridge in Vancouver, itself became one source of conflict, as the official announcement that the busy roadway would be closed for seven hours on June 21 morning to facilitate participation in the event faced criticism from many, including the city’s mayor. Local politics also played a part, as critics blasted Clark for supporting an event that would serve to downgrade National Aboriginal Day observations.

Earlier, announcing the event, Clark had said the idea had originated when she met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Canada this April, which also included events in Vancouver. In the original statement, the Premier’s office had stated: “In April of this year, the Prime Minister of India made a historic visit to British Columbia and Canada, promoting the IDY during his trip.”

Now, instead of the thousands who were expected to do their asanas on the Burrard Street Bridge on June 21, some hundreds of yoga enthusiasts are expected to attend various events at parks around Vancouver. These events are being coordinated by YYoga, the yoga studio chain that was involved in organising the originally planned event, with the support of Lululemon Athletica, the Vancouver-headquartered global yoga brand.

Jen Riley, a spokesperson for YYoga told the Hindustan Times, “There was community negativity and the Government backed out. We have a community coalition and we will reimagine the day; though it is unlikely to have the same amount of people. We ran up with too much opposition but we definitely want to continue to celebrate yoga.”

On Yoga Day, about 35,000 people are expected to participate in the mass yoga demonstration in Indian capital New Delhi's Rajpath.

The government will also organise events across 192 of the 193 UN member nations, with the exception of Yemen. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj will lead a delegation to the UN in New York.

A big programme, to be beamed live, is scheduled to be held in New York's Times Square, where thousands will be led through poses by yoga guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.


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