Charanjit Singh Sidhu
Date of Birth:
District Moga, Punjab
Charanjit Singh Sidhu was born in district Moga in Punjab, India on February 19, 1945 and came as a visitor to Canada in 1975 through his aunt’s invitation, who was already living in Canada. He was 25 years old when he came to Canada and was a well-traveled and educated person. His aunt received him at the airport and he remembers that he felt very safe and happy to be received by his aunt.
Immigration was the first challenge for Charanjit as he couldn’t work without a work permit, so he filed for his residency and became a permanent resident in one year. According to Charanjit, Canada did not recognize India’s education system as he had a diploma in mechanical engineering and knew English but still was not able to get a job in his field. His first job was at an apple orchard in Victoria where he worked for $1.50 per hour wage. He had to lie that he had worked in the orchards before because he wouldn’t get the job then, however, he worked three times as hard as compared to his co-workers.
Charanjit ultimately worked at the mills as he couldn’t go back to school because his educations wasn’t recognized. In the words of Charanjit, “the people that came in 1970’s as visitors faced many difficulties with the immigration and finding work.” The land and love back home helped him in Canada. People from India understood the importance of utilizing basements as rental suites. They thought of constructing a bathroom in the basement and renting it out. As such, when Charanjit bought his house, he lived in the basement and rented the rest of the house as a means of earning additional income.
Charanjit recalls that people worked from Monday to Friday and hardly worked during the weekends. Everyone would withdraw money on Friday’s to be used for the next two weeks. He went back to India in 1976 to get married. Charanjit remembers that the ticket to India in 1976 was $1250 and was very expensive compared to the earnings, which were $1.5-$3 at that time. The community would celebrate festivals such as Diwali in their homes and prepared the food and Indian deserts at home.
According to Charanjit, the Punjabi community had good relations with the people of European descent. It was mutual respect where the Punjabis were respected for their hardworking characteristics. The Punjabi community fought discrimination with their work ethics and always strived to work hard. In Charanjit’s words, “The people of Canada are descent and we should learn good things from them and leave the bad things.”
Charanjit believes that there are three messages to learning, Sat, Santook and Daya, which means to always strive to be together, be content and to help others. He has three daughters who are well settled now and only requests everyone to educate their children and to give them the best education possible. Accordingly, Charanjit Singh believes that everything in Canada is good but “our community should never forget our home country.”