Avtar Singh

Date of Birth:
Village Pandori Ladha Singh, Hoshiarpur, Punjab

Current City:
Kelowna, BC

Avtar Singh was born in village Pandori Ladha Singh, District Hoshiarpur, in Punjab, India, in 1947. When his parents asked him if he wanted to go to Canada, he had been working in Delhi at an automobile company as a mechanic for nine years. Avtar Singh came to Canada when he was twenty-four years old on October 21, 1972 as a visitor. He landed at the Toronto airport where Avtar and his friend from Delhi met a kind and helpful man outside the airport. Although, he was a total stranger, he took Avtar and his friend to his house. The next day he took them to his mechanic and after talking to one another, Avtar and the mechanic found out that they both had worked for the same manager despite being in two different countries. Avtar had previous experience since he worked at Delhi Automobile on the Faridabad border. The mechanic then took both of them to his house where they stayed for one week and the he helped them find a place to live and also bought them grocery for the week. After, three months Avtar moved to Williams Lake, BC, to live with his uncle. In Williams Lake, he worked in a mill for about five months and later on, with the help of his uncle’s friend, he was able to find a job in Pine Valley which was about nine miles away from Williams Lake. Unfortunately, after six months, Avtar quit this job because he didn’t know how to speak English.

In 1975, a couple years after Avtar migrated to Canada, he worked on a farm where five men, including himself, lived in one cabin.  Two of them would sleep on the top bunk and the other two on the bottom one. He recalls they showered using the cold water sprinklers that were on the farm. They would put soap on and then go back under the sprinklers to get a shower. Avtar to this very day still remembers the bitter coldness of the water from the sprinklers. They even washed dirty dishes and their clothes in the same cold water sprinklers because they didn’t have access to hot water unless they heated it up themselves.  Sometimes, their friends that lived on Richter Street, not far from their cabin, would invite them to come take warm showers at their place in the winter.

Each cabin had one small wood stove in which they did all their cooking on. Sometimes the dogs would take their food so they would have to make their food all over again. The temperature was varied through the cabin at night because of no central heating system back then. At night in the winter they would put wood in the stove to keep warm while they were sleeping.  The people on the top bunk would get very hot while the people on the bottom bunk would be very cold. They didn’t have thermoses either back then to store their food in for meals at work. As such, they used small containers in which they put lentils in and wrapped the roti in cloth. At one of his jobs at an apple farm, Avtar earned $5 a day which was fifty Indian Rupees during that time. Because so many of the men translated their Canadian earning to Indian rupees, they felt like they were earning plenty. They slowly started earning more and reached $7 to $8 a day which was a lot of money for them to be earning compared to what they earned in India.

Avtar remembers the great love and brotherhood he shared with the other 10-12 single men that were part of his community. They spent their leisure time eating and hanging out together. If one person didn’t have money the other would pay for them. It was never expected to be returned, they shared all costs. They helped each other in time of need and came across difficulties, but they all faced them together. Avtar recalls a time that they got a dozen mangoes and after everyone shared and had eaten they were left with one last mango. No one ended up eating that one mango because there was no way of dividing it. They thus all left it there for two weeks and that’s how strong their love and bond was. They came across difficulties but faced them together.

After working in the farms for a few years, a man that Avtar knew helped him get a job at an auto parts company. Avtar had faced hardships at his previous jobs due to the fact he could not speak, write or read English.  However, because he was a hard worker, within six months, he was promoted as a Tradesman, and with a pay increase at the auto parts company.

In 1974, after being rejected by the immigration department the first time in the interview process, Avtar appealed the decision and was granted his permanent resident status.

Later on in his life, he worked for Western Star Trucking Company for twenty-four years. When Avtar went back to visit his family in India, his parents said that they also wanted to come to Canada and so in 1980, he sponsored them to Canada. Avtar is very thankful that he was able to come to this country and create a life for himself and his family in Canada. He believes we should do our part in giving back to such a great country that supported so many immigrants.