Avtar Sandhu


Date of Birth:
Hoshiarpur, Punjab
Current City:
Surrey, BC

Avtar Kaur Sandhu was born in a village in the district of Hoshiarpur, Punjab, India on September 1, 1944. As Avtar’s mother passed away when she was just twelve years old, Avtar matured very quickly. Avtar’s brother used to work in a saw mill with her father-in-law in Canada. There they decided to get Avtar and her husband married. Back in India, Avtar’s husband’s grandparents from his maternal side and grandmother from his paternal side went to meet Avtar in the hopes of arranging a marriage. She did not know why they were there but she made them food and welcomed them. After they left, Avtar’s father told her why they came.

Soon after, they received a letter from her future husband’s family saying that they liked her and wanted to do the engagement. At the age of 21 in 1965, Avtar came to Canada to get married. Avtar’s sister got married and came to Canada also at a very young age. Her husband sponsored her when she was 16 years old. Avtar’s brother lived in Port Alberni, BC so she went there to get married. She didn’t like Port Alberni as much as Vancouver. She got married at the temple in Port Alberni on August 5, 1965.

Avtar has always been very independent. Her in-laws were very supportive about her education. She wanted to continue her education in India but couldn’t because she got married. In September of 1965, she started going back to high school. After high school, she wanted to become something. After she had her daughter, a friend of hers guided her and told her to become a practical nurse. Avtar went home that day and talked to everyone about this. Her father-in-law said to her “Dear I’m not stopping you, but you shouldn’t fail because then it would be a waste of time”. After the interview, she got an acceptance into the course. At that same time, her daughter had back surgery. Avtar’s husband asked her what she wanted to do. She told him that she couldn’t study while her daughter was like this. He told her that her mother-in-law would help take care of their daughter. After a lot of encouragement, she said yes and began her schooling. Her mother-in-law helped her a lot during this time.

On her first exam, Avtar got 85%. This encouraged her even more. She remembered what her father-in-law had said to her and pushed through the training.  Once she found a job, she worked for thirty-three years. After Avtar and her husband retired, they moved to Surrey.

Avtar only faced two situations where she discriminated against. The first one was a registered nurse that she used to work under. She used to be very bitter towards Avtar. One day she called Avtar into her office and apologized for her behaviour. She told Avtar that is was because she had a bad experience with her landlords who were also Indian. The other experience was with a patient of hers. The patient refused to let Avtar take care of her because Avtar was Indian; however, the staff told the patient that they couldn’t discriminate against her. Despite this initial racism, the patient and Avtar became friend after two days. Avtar and her husband have three daughters that all live very happily and Avtar says that her and her husband’s life is beautiful.