Avtar Singh Grewal
Date of Birth:
Village Navakilla, Punjab
Prince George, BC
Avtar Singh Grewal was born in January 1952 in the village of Navakilla, near Jalandhar, in Punjab, India. When he was around eighteen years old, he finished his Grade 10 studies and married, in India, a woman from Canada. Soon after getting married, he immigrated to Canada and landed in Vancouver on April 12, 1980. His uncle, Mr. Bhaktavar Singh Grewal picked up Avtar Singh and his wife from the airport. They spent the night in Vancouver and left for Prince George the next morning. Avtar Singh recalls that he found the weather very cold during his first few days in Canada compared to his hometown which was much warmer. He also experienced snow for the first time in Canada when he first arrived.
Avtar Singh remained unemployed during his initial seven or eight months in Canada. Finding a job was difficult for him as his English skills were poor. Thus he began taking English lessons while unemployed and finally found a job at a lumber mill. He worked at a company called Netherlands Overseas Mills ltd. for seventeen to eighteen years before it shut down in 1999 due to economic recession.
Avtar Singh spent long hours at work during his initial first five years in Canada as he came with the mind set of working really hard to earn a good living before returning back to India. He was also supporting his family back in India by sending them his savings from Canada. With time however, he and his family came to realize that they wanted to stay in Canada permanently and make their lives here. They then started considering Canada as their own country and the rest of his family moved to Canada as well.
After a few years of struggle, Avtar Singh settled in and started spending his free time towards self-improvement. He started learning more about his religion of Sikhism, improving his conversational skills in English, studying more about world history and focusing on health and exercise.
Avtar Singh feels that the South Asian population and community in Prince George has seen many changes since the time he moved here (in the 1980’s) until the present day. At that time, the community was very small, comprising about 250-300 people, and everyone shared a lot of affection and love. On Sundays, the gurdwara (Sikh Temple) used to quite busy and it was hard to find space to sit. However, Avtar mentions that although the South Asian population in the area has grown to five or six thousand, community life is not the same anymore. He mentions that he hardly sees anyone in the gurdwara nowadays. He feels that people have started to lose interest in religion and are getting distracted from the main purpose of life.
Avtar Singh has been working in the sawmill industry for the past thirty-five years and is close to his retirement. He frequently visits his village in India and often provides financial help to the people of his village. He also feels that the South Asian community should continue to support and help one another just like it used to be during the time he immigrated to Canada.
Avtar Singh has enjoyed his time living in Canada and believes that Canada is a place where one can earn a good living and get rewarded for their hard work.