Acknowledging the extraordinary growth of Toronto’s Tibetan community, which in 1970 had a population of only 300 souls, Sonam Lankar, President of the Canadian Tibetan Association of Ontario, welcomesallinto the humble premises of the Tibetan Canadian Cultural Centre. Many of the 100,000 Tibetans living in Toronto attend festivities, cultural events and Buddhist prayers at the centre. From humble beginnings, the cultural centre will soon be expanding, and its 50-year-old leader is proud to display the scale model depicting the expansion development. In fact, the project was the subject of an audience Sonam had with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in August 2018. A man of many talents, Sonam and the organization he runs so successfully hosted the Etobicoke/Mississauga Interfaith Festival in 2017 and 2018. This festival brings together leaders and members of the Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim faiths.
Raised in a Tibetan refugee community in the barley-growing region of Bylakuppe, India, Sonam finished his high school studies in Bangalore. Before the age of 30, he emigrated to California to join his brother. He spent four years working menial jobs including a stint as a kitchen helper in a hospital. In 1998, he moved his young family to join the Tibetan community of Parkdale in Toronto. Sonam later become the owner of Tibet Kitchen and Om restaurants. Amid Toronto’s sea of multiculturalism, the preservation of the Tibetan identity, culture and language became Sonam’s life mission, and he is recognized as a leader in these efforts. Considering the minority status of Tibetans in India and in the Tibet Autonomous Region, Sonam believes it is of paramount importance to support Tibetans in Canada and throughout the world. A real estate agent by vocation,he is a community organizer who is committed to creating a place to gather, worship and host spiritual and cultural activities. Observing the ethnic diversity of the centre’s visitors, it is clear that the Tibetan community has forged tight bonds with Canadians from various cultures. Adapting to a host country is the challenge facing most immigrants, as it has been for Sonam’s high school-aged son and his daughter, a York University student.
Sonam espouses with sincerity that Canada, through its leaders and policies, is a constitutional state and a haven of peace. Sharing, altruism, equality between all citizens and the respect of human rights are predominant values. Many Tibetans believe that giving back to your community is one of the cardinal virtues of Buddhism. Our friend Sonam is the very embodiment of that virtue.