Gurdip Kaur Dhaliwal

Gurdip Dhaliwal (née Raiwal) was born on February 28, 1954, in Village Sheikhdaulat, Punjab, between Districts Ludhiana and Moga, Punjab, India, to parents Sarup Singh Raiwal and Surjit Kaur. Her father first came to Canada in 1972 and resided in Honeymoon Bay, Vancouver Island, as a visitor. Eventually, he ended up immigrating to Canada during the time when Canada had opened up its doors for immigration. After her father came, Gurdip Dhaliwal and her three siblings, Sukhwinder, Baljinder, and Balbir followed suit in 1975, coming over to Canada on an airplane and landing in Vancouver.

After landing in Vancouver at the age of twenty-one, Gurdip Dhaliwal and her family cleared immigration and headed over to Victoria where she met her dad. They stayed at Honeymoon Bay for a few days and then went over to Abbotsford. Gurdip’s father decided to move to Abbotsford to find more work as a millworker. Gurdip’s siblings were enrolled in a local school while Gurdip and her mother worked.

Gurdip was married at the age of twenty-two, one year after coming to Canada, at the Heritage Gurdwara in Abbotsford. Her eighteen years long marriage was filled with many challenges and hardships, and created the strong, highly inspirational woman that Gurdip is today. Gurdip has one son, Monminder (Mo), who is now a well-established member of the Lower Mainland community.

The challenges Gurdip would face often resulted from her husband’s alcoholism. At the beginning, Gurdip tried to hide it from her parents and although the drinking kept getting worse, Gurdip continued to stay resilient.

Gurdip initially worked at a farm that was run by Japanese people for twelve years and recalls it to be difficult to communicate with others. Here, she learned different aspects of farm work and she was also able to improve her English. During her job at one of the multiple farms she worked at, she learned about a care-aid program that a few of her co-workers were participating in. After passing an interview, she was accepted into a care-aid educational course at the Family Resource Institute and Career College in 1992, halting her work at a farm. She would drive herself from Abbotsford to the school in Vancouver to study, leaving at seven in the morning and returning home seven at night. She continued to do this for four months until she qualified.

During this time period, her younger brother-in-law would stay with her, and he would often drink alcohol. One night, shortly after Gurdip had completed her care-aid training, her younger brother-in-law was found unresponsive on the stairs at her home. He had drank too much, and unfortunately passed away. However, her relatives would blame her for his death. During this time period, her son was exposed to all of this. She started the process of divorce from her husband in 1992, which was finalized in 1994. She recalls her lowest day as being July 31st, 1994, when she had nothing left. Her son had started to look at jobs as a teenager and got a job as a berry picker at a local farm. He was eager to work and help his mother out- Gurdip recalls him running to the phone whenever it rang to see if it was the farm calling him to give him work.

After her divorce, her husband travelled to India and got re-married to his younger brother’s previous wife. The previous wife’s family really wanted their daughter to go to Canada. Gurdip’s husband re-married prior to a thirty-one day period required after a finalized divorce. He tried to bring his new wife over to Canada, but Gurdip worked to receive justice. She travelled to India and received her share of the land, and informed immigration officers of her ex-husband’s new wife. Due to Gurdip’s efforts, her ex-husband was never able to bring his new wife over to Canada, even after a long appeal case. During this time period, she also worked hard to bring over her mama’s (mom’s younger brother) daughter to Canada. However, she was unable to get custody, because her adopted daughter was out of country. She fought the case for eleven years before finally winning, and bringing her adopted daughter over to Canada.

Later on, Gurdip found that her son’s university funds had been emptied out by her ex-husband’s family, and she was forced to start from the beginning all over again. Gurdip was determined to be both the mom and dad, and she never wanted her son to feel as though he was missing something.

In 1992, she obtained part time work as a care aid, and then she also started home care in 1993, which involved visiting the homes of seniors to give medication, food, and help bathe them. She continuously worked two jobs for sixteen years. From 1993 until 2019, she did home care, and from 1992 until 2008, she worked as a care-aid at the Grand Street Lodge in Mission, British Columbia. Even after she was divorced, she continued to look out for her ex-husband, even providing him with a basement suite and letting him move back into her house. He even requested to remarry her, but Gurdip refused as he was a very controlling man. She did not want to lose all that she had worked so hard for. Her ex-husband passed away in 2006 after a poor lifestyle including excessive alcohol usage.

From then on, Gurdip was involved in founding a women’s abuse group, to enable a safe place for women to join together. She was also involved in feeding the homeless each year during New Year’s, with home cooked meals. She continues to take care of foster children in her home to this day, and, as she says, ‘My house is open for them.’ 

Throughout all her hardships, Gurdip remains strong and has a very positive spirit. She is very involved in her community, and hopes to send the message that as women, ‘We can do it’. She is able to keep a strong mind throughout all of her endeavours. At the beginning, she also believed she was unable to do certain things, but through her persistency she was able to succeed. She has been recognized by a variety of awards, and her impact has been greatly felt.