Date of Birth:
Manjit Rai was born on April 3rd, 1961 in Morai, Punjab, India and his father was born in Chemainus, BC on Vancouver Island. His grandfather was one of the early immigrants that came in the year 1906 and Manjit came to Canada as a permanent resident on April 3rd, 1970 with his mother and younger brother. Manjit says he felt different when he landed in Canada as he perceived that everything was different compared to India in 1970.
Manjit landed in Vancouver along with his family and they were received by their uncle and aunt and went to Vancouver Island where they stayed for one month. Manjit recalls enjoying his aunt’s food and Indian meals. Manjit, his mother and younger brother took the bus from Vancouver Island to Donald, BC where they were picked up by their father. Learning English was a challenge for Manjit in his first year and he had to start his schooling all over again, beginning with Grade one. This bothered Manjit as he felt older than the other students in the class, but eventually, everything went well with his growth and learning.
Manjit went to school in Donald, BC for six years and then moved there. He remembers that there was a Indigenous family living in Donald at that time and about twenty to twenty-five Punjabi families. Manjit also remembers that the gurdwara was built in the 1980’s in Golden, BC and people celebrated festivals such as Vaisakhi and Diwali after it was built. Before the gurdwara, people would get together at each other’s houses, socialize and spend time together. Weddings would take place in homes and the Guru Granth Sahib Ji (Sikh scripture) would be brought over from Kamloops for holy processions. Manjit recalls that he experienced racism whenever he would walk on the streets of Vancouver but believes that this has now has reduced quite a bit compared to the 1970’s.
He vividly remembers an incident that took place in 1971, when the family’s house caught on fire because of a gas leak. The whole family was out in the cold but many Punjabi, as well as white families helped the family by donating money and basic necessities.
Manjit mostly worked in the mills in British Columbia and spent the majority of his years living in Golden with his family. Apart from that, he also worked in the fields and at the coast. He identifies himself as an Indo-Sikh and is proud of his family’s and other Punjabi families’ efforts in making life easier for others living in Canada.