hi what’s your name my name is inspector bill tej Singh Dhillon with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and wait and when were you born I was born in Malaysia in 1966 and how did you arrive on the decision to come to Canada so coming to Canada was more of a decision that was made for us less around a choice my father passed away in 1982 and he was the breadwinner for the family after his passing the rest of us were still in school and my older brother was established in Canada felt that would be best for the family to immigrate to Canada so that we could one be together as a family and to also be able to support each other financially and also emotionally so it was through through that thinking where my brother then pursued a sponsorship opportunity and very thankful for this country for allowing us to come to Canada Canada you know the compassionate basis with the loss of my father so your brother was already in Canada yes he was already here married he was studying at the time as well as working thank you and how old were you when you first came to Canada I was 16 at the time yes still very young my younger sisters were much younger than I was at the time you know one was 14 and the other was I believe 13 or 12 yeah okay and so you know when you first came to Canada I believe Vancouver’s the first city you’ll answer is that right so so how did you feel you know when you know you just got off the plane you know at you were at the Vancouver Airport what were the feelings that you were experiencing can you share those with us of course we came in the fall it was around October that we arrived here this very strange place you know I mean we that was the first time I’ve ever been on a plane first time ever been this far away from home arriving in Canada it was all new it was it was all new I still remember the immigration officer asking us you know because I had $400 u.s. on me and he was asking you know if there was more money coming and I said no this is all we’ve got and you know I paused and he looked at us and he said good luck I didn’t know what to make of that I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing back then or what or you know it certainly seemed like he was expecting that there would be more money that we would have had so that I create some nervousness of course and then when we came outside family was waiting so that was very helpful seeing familiar faces and and then just the weather it was you know I’ve never experienced fall coming from Malaysia it’s a tropical country Sun all year round and I could see the sun shining but as soon as we walked outside it was this you know incredible shock to the system of actually experiencing being in a fridge really in a refrigerator with because the temperatures were so cold so that was probably the first sort of real shock and to the system and then just to see a very different culture coming from Malaysia there’s you know a very multicultural country predominantly the racist there were the Chinese South Indian Punjabi and Malays very few from you know the Caucasian race but here that was the opposite and so that was a big that was there was a significant adjustment as well and just lifestyle here it was it was very different compared to compared to Malaysia and I know for the first week that I was here I was still so wake up in the mornings dreaming that I was in Malaysia and then would realize that I was not when I had to put my big coat on to go outside so so that was probably my first few impressions in coming to Canada so then what did you do you know after viewers you know you came you landed yeah you went home so what what after that well well we didn’t get to start school we started school fairly soon after arriving one of the first few things that happened was you know my and at the time the tradition here was that if you came to Canada and you had a turban or long hair like I did and you were following you know you’re the Sikh tenants the the tradition at the time was that family would take you to a barber shop to have your hair cut so I

certainly had that question put to me as well the the following day when one of my family members extend it to my brother and and his wife asked when I was going to cut my hair and I you know shared at that time that I was not and it was largely due to the fact that I made a promise to my father who had passed away that it was something that I was going to maintain and hold on to but I understood and then reflecting back certainly saw it to be true that many young men and adults you know were against forced is probably a good word whether they did it voluntarily or not whether it was part of their thinking or not certainly it was the thinking here at the time that if you did not change you know what you look like that what you would invite into your life was significant challenges and potentially you know some form of hate crime against you and and also difficulty assimilating and or you know finding employment so then how did you how did you encounter all these problems are well they were there I mean overcome overcame these problems yeah so all the things that I shared they were all there I remember when I first we first arrived here and we were I was living with my brother and you know we moved to a different home and we arrived in that neighborhood we were new in that neighborhood and very quickly after that we you know we saw different things that had happened we you know they were name-calling there was eggs being thrown in our home at times there was some graffiti that we experienced to the point that we my brother actually got a dog – you know / for protection and insecurity and at school it was I was the only one with the terminal I was the only one in high school that wore turbines so that brought along its own challenges and so they so those are all things that you know we had to face early on in coming to Canada and there was only through you know sort of relationship building socializing engagement sharing that we were able to overcome many of those challenges and and I think you know we’re better off for it better for it but yeah I mean there wasn’t very many coping mechanisms or tools that were available to us at the time when you you either were very comfortable in your skin or you would find a way to change your skin and that meant cutting your hair that’s I was a tough time there was a tough people went through at that time yes it was a difficult time yeah and in the country itself was maturing I remember that I was in school and one of the one of the first few things I was asked to do or one of the first few things I was enrolled in was English as a in in in a class for for those who had English as a second year said yes yes and so the assumption was made that because I was from Malaysia I probably would not have a strong command of the English language I spoke by speaking I spoke English back then as I speak English today it was it wasn’t very long after being in that English class that I was able to pass all of their tests and soon after became a teacher’s assistant and a tutor in the class so I reflect back and it would have been you know it was a year that I that was lost to me where it could have been another subject that could have could have you know assisted me and supported me my you know career hopes and career aspirations so but it was a year that was lost to me because I was put in a class that I didn’t need and so reflecting back certainly would have been and I think that’s the case now some sort of you know assessment if done at the front end initially would have allowed them to determine my level of competency in the English language and which have avoided you know some of what I share today in what I carry today not so much resentment but more sort of experience in reflection on where we are today and where we were then were much of what we did was based on assumptions and you know what we thought would be the truth rather than actually making the effort to investigate and inspect to determine if our preconceived ideas our

biases were actually true or not can you also tell us about social setting at that time like how big the Punjabi community was in Vancouver what did they used to do you know say on the weekends however the social celebrations you know how how did they take place something of that well there was a large community in in Surrey and in the lower mean time and larger community in Vancouver I would say than Surrey at the time so most of the concentration was in Vancouver since then many have moved into the City of Surrey and into the larger and into the larger you know Fraser Valley but all of our celebrations if you will I mean we had our family gatherings that occurred for a variety of you know different events whether it was the body of a sake or so and so forth so we did that there but you know as far as the community was concerned the most of the celebrations were done at the community you know the gorillas the Sikh temples and so Google autos were really our community centres that’s where most of our sort of socialization occurred most of our sort of you know conversation I mean they you know what we have today where you see three four five Indian movies playing at the theater there’s no such thing I mean back then it was VHS tapes and you’d have Punjabi or Hindi video stores via that that would rent out VHS tapes that you would go to you know rent to to enjoy at home there was no such thing as you know watching an Indian movie at a third and I still remember when that started to happen it was just I was still in awe I was just amazed that we that Cineplex Odeon theatre was gonna play yeah you know Hindi movies and Punjabi movies was just it was just great speaks to how far we’ve come but back then there yeah that was though sir you know the celebrations and some of the social settings I mean there were very few Indian restaurants I mean and now you turn you know any which direction and you’ll run into an Indian restaurant you know trying to get samosas were was a big deal you know you’d have to travel and to look for stores to get that kind of that kind of food and and we didn’t have like foodie Khanna and all of these other Indian stores so they were specialty stores at the time very small ones that you’d have to go and get some of the grocery set today we take for granted you know we didn’t have DNA you know we didn’t have those things you didn’t have kind of make we didn’t have you know bangin you know like the Indian bring her in the pin dia and so all these things were not common that commonplace it was they were there there were things that we had to go search for I mean you thought that you couldn’t find you could and they became more difficult if you lived in the interior so if you were living in the Lower Mainland you had Main Street and you had some of the grocery stores there and that’s where we would go from Surry to Main Street to get grocery compared to where I now walk over to fruity cannon yeah so in the big celebration was our vaisakhi parade in rust read the roster you put out every year that was the biggest celebration which has now moved to Surry but that that was the annual sort of Sikh celebration where we all attended as a matter of you know a tradition and and we all felt obligated and felt I felt it was important for us to attend so we did that for years I also took part in some of the floats to keep them many of the floats served as the same athon and and and as a volunteer and and so those were those were you know the days those are the times where the population wasn’t as robust as it is now but still it had its own you know sort of footing we had a few politicians back then mo dhaliwal was there herb was there and you know so but not to the extent that we that we are now in teachers who are hard to come by I don’t think I’m back then I you know I think I met one high school teacher that was of Indian descent and the same thing with every other industry they were you know the most most of us worked in the farms I didn’t I worked in the farms that that was the industry and that was the you know sort of enterprise that many Indians at the time and seats at the time were involved in yeah interesting I need you also used to visit Malaysia once you move to Canada no idea or yeah no it was we couldn’t we we didn’t have the means you know we didn’t have a lot

of money back then and and in the means or the resources to do that so it took it was you know got here and 83 and I think it was somewhere around 2000 or 99 98 when when I first got to go to Malaysia so it took a long time before I was able to get back to Malaysia and visit my family there and you know communication isn’t wasn’t as easy as it is today yeah I can speak to my Malaysian family in whatsapp and do a video call and we’re connected back then it was you know it was all science fiction of that thing and I would say it’s reality it was hard lines you know you had to pay a lot of money to make those long-distance calls on your rotary phone to Malaysia you’d have to kind of adjust for time and not everybody in Malaysia had a phone so they’d have to go to someone’s home where there was a phone to be a conversation with you so it didn’t happen for the most part didn’t happen I mean you know writing letters was the the main mode of communication and but you know by the time you got a letter which was three four or five weeks later I mean things have changed already yeah compared to very instantaneous messaging today so those were probably the big pieces I and I know certainly those created significant challenges and issues I mean we you know I lost one of my uncles and several of my uncles in Malaysia and we wouldn’t know about it or hear about it for at least a day or two after because you know the phone calls and the calls and all that you’d have to look for the number numbers would change and all that good stuff so that’s all we there there was there were things that were important events that we missed out on because of some of them because of being here in Canada not another Malaysia so you know you but would you cope with it didn’t you you worked around it so yeah yeah okay very nice anything else you want to share with us well I think the community itself you know from from back then I mean the pioneering days I mean certainly the communities in here for over a hundred years you know back from the 1897 1898 in 1899 from that time onwards in the 1900s we had so many people that have come forward and contributed to what we you know call Canada today and so I am you know one of the products and the results of those pioneers because I certainly stood on their shoulders and I’m very grateful to them for allowing me to stand on their shoulders and it is that sort of sacrifice and effort that was made by our forefathers and our pioneers that absolutely opened the doors and paved the way for many of us to live the lives that we’re living today with the reputation with you know respects with respect with dignity and and have a presence in this country where we not only call it ours but we are contributing towards our country and so I think there was a shift my personally felt it over the you know over the years that we’ve been here where we moved from being immigrants to being Canadians and for me certainly I became a Canadian on the day not on the day that I got my citizenship or my certificate but on the day I got my badges RCMP officer because certainly I certainly felt and I know others did as well but even when you had your sister citizenship card you know because systematically there were a variety of different areas and and discrimination and bias that existed within the Canadian you know system and the Canadian sort of way of life they didn’t feel like we were citizens even though we got the card it’s only when we were embraced and when our faith and our way of life was you know acknowledged and we were accepted not tolerated as as equal partners in this country and we started to represent our community and government institutions is when I

certainly started to feel that okay we have arrived this is our country and I think receiving my badge and the RCMP after the after the hard-fought battle not only you know but myself but the community at large not only by the Sikhs but also other communities like the Jewish community or very you know who had a lot of sort of consideration for us it was then that we finally felt I certainly and finally felt that okay we’re now equal partners and now truly Canadians and truly citizens of this country which brings about its own responsibility of course so so I’m very thankful I’m very grateful deep in deep gratitude of all of the sacrifices and all of the efforts that were made by our forefathers we had a very very tough time here so I all that I went through pales in comparison to the history of the Komagata Maru and you know the all of the pioneers that came after that and the work that they did in the mills and the farms and and in the in the labor industry lots of folks lost their lives lots of both you know folks gave more than they should have to establish Orillia ground and in a land for the rest of us that we can now call home very nice well thank you so much for taking of the time and sharing your inspiring story with us my pleasure ever happen thank you