Date of Birth:
Village Alipur (Faisalabad), Pakistan
Raj Pagely was born in the village Alipur which is now known as Faisalabad, in Pakistan on 1935. In 1947, he and his family moved to Raipur, India during Partition. He did most of his education in Raipur and completed the rest at Punjab University. He immigrated to Canada to marry his wife, Buncy Pagely. The night his plane landed in Victoria, Buncy’s family didn’t come to pick him up from the airport because they didn’t know that he was coming at that time. As he was standing there, a man helped him out and dropped him at his Buncy’s house as he had her address. In 1960, Raj married Buncy at the Akali Sikh temple.
When Raj first came to Canada, he really enjoyed it, however, that changed fairly quickly. After he married he started to look for a job but he wasn’t sure if his education would be valid in Canada because in those days they were very strict about it. Surely enough, when he went he was told his degree was not accepted. He used to be a P.E teacher and he told them that he was ready to do a year of training if he had to but he was still refused. Instead of giving up, he moved forward because he had a family to raise. As such, he began working at a plywood factory. He used to work the night shift because he taught at a private school during the day. The most difficult part of Raj’s journey was when people called him and other Punjabis that had turbans names such as ‘rag heads.’
Raj went to Sprott Shaw College to become a bookkeeper in accounting. After he completed his course, he found an advertisement in the newspaper that said that they needed a bookkeeper. When he went for his interview, the employer told him that he really liked the way he presented himself but he couldn’t hire him because of his turban and that the boss wouldn’t like it because it would affect the business. As such, he decided to cut his hair and when his parents in India saw his picture, they were very sad. Raj believes that this occurred because not many people were aware of what turbans meant. Now that there’s awareness, there’s also better acceptance.
Raj also started a well-known field hockey team called the Victoria Tigers. Ravi Khalon, a field hockey player, and now a Member of Parliament, was also a part of that team. Raj was also the first president of the Affiliation Multicultural Society of British Columbia. According to Raj, Victoria has changed a lot since the 1960s because earlier, everyone knew each other since it was such a small community. There are also South Asians from all parts of India here now with other South Asian groups such as Muslims and Hindus having their own places of worship now. He believes that this is important because it creates awareness of other cultures. Raj believes that such growth and diversity is better than what they had started with in the 60’s. Raj hasn’t gone back to Pakistan since the partition but he has gone to India to visit his sister. He is also the 100-metre record holder at the Punjab University and has even met Milkha Singh, the famous Sikh track athlete.