Surjit Dhami was born in India and came to Canada in 1968. His great grandfather came to Canada in 1903 followed by his grandfather and father. He immigrated to Canada when he was eight years old and flew with his elder brother and his mother. He remembers that he landed in Vancouver and saw lots of cars and cleanliness everywhere. He was received by his father and they stayed in Vancouver for a few days and then moved to Kelowna where he has been residing since 1968.
Surjit grew up in Kelowna and finished his high school here as well. According to Surjit, there were many challenges when growing up as Kelowna was a small town forty years back. He had heard stories of racism but never really experienced it first-hand. There weren’t a lot of Punjabi families in Kelowna when he came with his family and he recalls there being around ten families. Surjit recalls that there wasn’t a gurdwara that time and families would get together at each other’s place and celebrate. Festivals such as Diwali and Vaisakhi were not celebrated as the population of Punjabis were relatively low compared to other cities such as Vancouver. It is only in last 10-15 years that the Vaisakhi parade was carried out in Kelowna, otherwise everybody would go to Vancouver to celebrate it.
Surjit’s grandfather worked in the vegetable farms in Cloverdale and Vancouver but then moved to work with the City of Kelowna, where he worked and lived for 35 years. His father would also work during the weekends and always taught them to work hard as it would pay off in the end. Surjit blended in well with the Canadian society and also had friends of Indigenous origin. He and his wife have passed on as many Punjabi traditions they could to their children and the children have also visited India a few time although Surjit hasn’t travelled to India ever since he came as a child to Canada in 1968.