Swaran Singh Patara
Date of Birth:
Village Patara, Punjab
Swaran Singh Patara was born on April 25, 1948 in the village of Patara in Punjab, India. His aunt, who resided in Canada, sponsored his father in 1966. Swaran came to Canada in early March 1968 when he was nineteen years old, after his Dad sponsored him, his brother, sister and mother.
To come to Canada, Swaran took a flight from Delhi to Victoria, via Tokyo and Vancouver. He recalls that upon landing in Victoria, he noticed the weather to be a lot colder and rainy as compared to India. His uncle picked him and his family up from the airport and they initially stayed with his aunt from 1968-1970.
His initial two years in Canada were full of struggles and hardships. Within one week of arriving, he started with his first job at a mill. One day, it was very cold and he told his supervisor that he no longer wanted to work there. His supervisor took him home and upon hearing what had happened, his aunt became furious with him, explaining that he didn’t have much experience about life and had to learn it the hard way. Though he resumed his job at the mill, in 1970 the mill blew up and he was left unemployed. Next, he started working at an orchard. He worked there for six to seven months, and, after a period of unemployment after this job, he moved to Donald, BC to join his father.
In Donald, he got a job with another mill. The initial five to six months were hard for him, but he eventually learned everything and settled in.
One day, while visiting the nearby town of Golden, BC, he and his friends got into a fight at the post office and another time, at a bar with a group of European descent people. Swaran mentioned that such fights were very frequent and people from the South Asian community refrained from walking alone on the sidewalks. However, with time and increased awareness levels about the existence of the South Asian community, the situation started to improve. With regards to the relations between the Punjabi community with other communities like the Indigenous, Italians, etc., Swaran says they were neutral.
With regards to his community life in Donald, Swaran described the celebrations on the weekend as just like a “carnival.” People from the South Asian community used to get together and play cards.
There were no Indian stores at that time in Donald where people could shop for Indian groceries, clothing or other things. Even whole wheat flour used in Indian cooking (atta) was not locally available. People had to travel to Harrogate, where there was a flour mill. Lentils were available only in Vancouver.
In addition, there was no gurdwara (Sikh Temple) at that time. In fact, Swaran was the first one in Donald from the South Asian community to get married. All the things that are used to perform a Sikh wedding were brought in from Lake Cowichan, like utensils, religious items, and even the priest to perform the ceremony.
After getting married Swaran lived in Vernon, BC for a while where he worked in a mill. As he shared, people in Vernon used to work all the time. Since he was married and had a family to take care of, he moved back to Donald shortly after moving to Vernon.
Swaran went back to India in 1982 for the first time after moving to Canada. He currently resides in Golden, BC.