For 17 Tibetan exiles, Christmas this year means a new home in Canada
They comprise the first group of about 1,000 exiles under the Tibetan Resettlement Project in Canada and arrived in Toronto and Ottawa last week.
Others selected in the first round will arrive in Vancouver and Victoria on December 14th and in Calgary in January.
The second batch of Tibetans will leave by December 14, 2013 followed by third batch in April 2014. The entire resettlement project is expected to be completed by May 11, 2016.
The first batch of 17 Tibetans [12 single and 5 married] belonged to the Miao Choephel Ling settlement in Arunachal Pradesh, India. They were received by private sponsors and Tibet supporters in Canada.
The Tibetan Prime Minister Dr Lobsang Sangay met with the Tibetans at Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in New Delhi before their passage to Canada.
Sangay advised the Tibetans to preserve the Tibetan culture including the ancient Tibetan moral values while living in Canada. He appreciated the support from the government of Canada saying that the Tibetans must never forget the generosity of government of Canada and its people.
The Tibetan Resettlement Project was initiated after an appeal by the Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama during his meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2007. The project aims to immigrate 1000 Tibetans from the Tibetan settlements of Miao, Tezu, Tuting, Tenzin Gang, Bomdila and Tawang in India.
The second batch of Tibetans will leave by December 14, 2013 followed by third batch in April 2014. The entire resettlement project is expected to be completed by May 2016.
In 1972, Canada established the Tibetan Refugee Program and resettled approximately 230 Tibetans in Canada who had been living in Northern India.
There are currently 6,500 Tibetans in Canada. Approximately 100,000 Tibetan refugees live in settlements across India and Nepal. The Central Tibetan Administration estimates that up to 1,000 Tibetans continue to leave Tibet each year, making the dangerous trek across the Himalayas. Existing settlement camps struggle to keep up with the influx and more than 14,000 Tibetans have never received relocation assistance.
After the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959, when the Tibetan refugees followed H.H the Dalai Lama in exile in India, Nepal and Bhutan, His Holiness major priorities' were the rehabilitation of Tibetan refugees, education of Tibetan children and preservation of Tibetan culture and identity.
To realize these objectives it was necessary during those times to settle all the Tibetan refugees into cohesive homogenous society and setting up of separate schools for refugee children with their own curriculum. With these thought in mind, the Dalai Lama reestablished his government in exile to meet both the immediate and long term needs of Tibetan people.
The Dalai Lama approached the then Prime Minister of India Mr. Nehru for his assistance in the permanent rehabilitation of the refugees.
Nehru accepted and wrote to the government of Indian states, requesting them to make land available to refugees. Mysore state (presently Karnataka) was the first to accept 3,000 Tibetan refugees and offered 1500 hectares of uninhabited jungle land on lease to Tibetan, thus beginning the first Tibetan settlement in exile in a place called Bylakuppe in 1960.
Soon after, in 1962 second and third settlements were constructed in Arunachal Pardesh. Gradually settlements started in many different parts of India, mostly in south India. Initially groups of five persons were allotted two and a half hectare of land for building house and doing agriculture. Since number of refugees coming into exile was increasing and existing settlements were packed already. Agro- Industrial based settlements were created to accommodate the remaining refugees in India.
In these settlements, Tibetan refugees partly relied on agriculture and partly on industrial activities. Unfortunately later on some of the settlements failed, largely due to lack of technical knowledge, poor management and limited funding. Since many of the Tibetans know the traditional Tibetan handicrafts such as weaving carpet, apron making and incense work, the settlements based on these works were also created especially in northern India.