Bachin Kaur Birdi
Bachin Kaur Birdi was born in village Patara, Punjab, on July 24, 1940. She added ‘Kaur’ to her name after her marriage. She grew up in India, where she was unable to receive an education and even so, there was only one school in her village which was an all-boys school. She was married in India at age nineteen, where her six children were born. Her husband moved to Canada in 1972 to Fort St. James on a tourist visa in order to work in the mills. He was able to stay in Canada after applying through a lawyer. Meanwhile, once his application was approved he applied for his wife Bachin Kaur and his six children to come to Canada.
Bachin Kaur joined her husband in 1976 flying from New Delhi and bringing her six children with her- four boys and two daughters. When the journey was made, her eldest child was fourteen years old, and her youngest child was three and a half years old. Bachin Kaur felt that people came to Canada because it was a good country and she decided to come as well and also felt it was a good country. Once landing in Canada, Bachin Kaur and her children headed northward to Fort St. James to live with her husband, where they continued to remain for nearly three decades. Her husband continued to work in the mills due to the good pay. Fort St. James was land occupied by the First Nations and Bachin Kaur remembers the First Nations as having a good relationship with the South Asian population, particularly due to a similar outward physical appearance. According to Bachin the two groups lived in harmony with one another and neither caused any trouble. The local First Nations lived on a reserve there that no one else could go to. She does not recall facing any discrimination or racism by the other racial groups that resided in Fort St. James.
Bachin Kaur recalls adjusting to Canada as being a smooth experience; however, she remembers missing India as well as her relatives that remained there during the first few years. Slowly though she was able to adjust. She recalls Fort St. James as having a close-knit community where the Punjabi community of about fifty families would act as close brothers and sisters. She recalls often visiting her neighbour’s homes and sitting and talking with them while making pakoras. The community of Fort St. James had a Gurdwara as well which was sold to others due to a decreased Punjabi population. She recalls that more families would move away as the children aged and increasing opportunities in other regions across BC. Some individuals continued to work the mills in Fort St. James. Bachin Kaur recalls that uneducated individuals over the age of eighteen also continued to work in the mills and plan on moving elsewhere upon retirement.
Fort St. James was an area occupied by Aboriginal people, and Bachin Kaur recalls interacting with them frequently. She remembers them as being very nice and like family. She also says that as Indian people, both communities physically looked similar to each other, which helped with the interactions. She doesn’t recall facing any experiences of discrimination or racism, and remembers that everyone would treat each other well regardless of religion. She also remembers a variety of different minority groups residing in Fort St. James including a small Chinese community. Bachin Kaur would work in the farms of Abbotsford for four months during the year to receive more pay, whereupon she would then sign employment forms. Then she moved over to Surrey alongside her grandchildren, who moved westward for university studies. She has travelled to a variety of different places within Canada, including Calgary, Edmonton, Prince George, as well as more frequent trips to Vancouver to meet with her family friends. Sometimes, they would return on the evening of the same day and other times, they would stay overnight.
Nowadays, Bachin Kaur persists as a strong and resilient women who is full of life, remaining in great shape after having undergone two knee operations. Her brother has since immigrated to Canada as well. She has frequently returned to India- her last trip being in February 2019, and recalls her trips to have gone well. She has also travelled to Mexico to attend a family member’s wedding, and she recalls enjoying the resort lifestyle. She likes to cook often and keeps a daily routine which begins with waking up at 4:30 am each day. She then gets up to walk at 7:00am with a neighbourhood friend. She attends both the local Gurdwara and the Hindu Mandhir. Sometimes Bachin Kaur will make the ten or twelve hour journey up to Fort St James to visit her son who still resides there, or she will travel by plane to Prince George and drive up to Fort St. James. She is proud of her son who was a city counsellor in Fort St. James. Bachin Kaur also enjoys visiting her other son who lives down the street from her. Another one of her sons resides in Delta. In addition to all this she also looks after her house. Although her husband passed away three years ago, she remained strong for her family and believes that he continues to look after her family.