Canadian Sikh Heritage | Paul Singh Dhaliwal
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Paul Singh Dhaliwal

A Witness to the Journey from Past to Present.

Paul Singh Dhaliwal, who recently celebrated his 100th birthday (May, 2014), first came to Canada in the year 1932. Paul’s father was the first out of the family to come to Canada in the year 1908 and he played an integral role in the building of the now Historic Gur Sikh Temple on South Fraser Way in 1911. Paul’s father returned to his home in India in 1914 and would not return to Canada dying at a very young age from the plague. This, it would be Paul’s Uncle, Bhagwan Singh, who would sponsor Paul to Canada in the year 1932 by claiming that Paul was his own son.

Paul’s journey from Punjab, India to Canada involved many steps. First, he travelled from his village Chananwal to Calcutta-which took twenty two days. From Calcutta Paul took the ship to Hong Kong, and at Hong Kong he would have to wait another two weeks before a CPR ship would take him from Hong Kong to Canada. Paul, like most other travelling Indian migrants, was not able to bring many possessions with him. Thus, he carried only his tin trunk and a mattress and quilt. Upon his arrival to Canada, and from his port of landing in Victoria Paul took a small boat to come to Vancouver where he halted for three days and then got a ride to Abbotsford where he joined his uncle.  During his three day stay in Vancouver, Paul stayed at the original and very first Gurdwara built in the Americas-the West 2nd Avenue Temple. As soon as he was in Abbotsford, one of the first things he did was to visit the Abbotsford Gur Sikh temple. He stayed with his uncle Bhagwan for a month and then moved to a lumber company based in Squamish, an area then known as Green Lake. Following his stint at the Lumber Company, he moved back to Abbotsford, and later to Vancouver where he settled for about six years.

Paul was a large, strong and sturdy man and for a brief stint in his life, even pursued the notion of becoming a professional wrestler. After training in the early 1940’s, Paul was noticed by American promoter Ted Thia, who encouraged him to pursue a wrestling career. However, instead of choosing that career path, Paul opted to return to Punjab, India and marry his future wife, Mrs. Surinder Kaur Dhaliwal. As such, Paul went back to India in the year 1947, when he got married and stayed until 1949. He returned to the city of Mission in the year 1950, where his six children were born. Paul would sponsor Surinder Kaur to come to Abbotsford in October 1950 and together they would continue to forge their lives in Abbotsford and the valley.

According to Paul, life was very different during those times, and required more physical effort to sustain oneself. “I have struggled all my life. But especially in those days all of them had to struggle very hard to sustain themselves”, says Paul smilingly. Paul worked for 10 cents an hour at the saw mill and there was no help from the government. He stresses on the fact that life has become very easy to live now. There was a mill that moved away from Mission. It seems that the mill owners first said that they will move the mill upstream and a ferry will take the workers there. But after six months the company sent letters to the workers notifying them about the closure of the mill. Mill workers, many of whom were from the Sikh community were left with no work. That was a very tough time for the community, according to Paul. Many moved to Abbotsford, which greatly helped the community.

Paul nostalgically says, “during those times every one knew each other in Abbotsford and Mission and we were very fond of each other.” Paul is proud at the progress made by the community. He adds proudly, “later on, our kids studied and were admitted universities and did very well for themselves.”

“I would like the whole of Canada to know about this Gur Sikh temple,” says Paul. “Everyone around the world should know, learn and able to see through this Gur Sikh temple, our history of success.” An honest man, Paul has worked very hard in his life. He believes that Waheguru has been very kind to him and the Sikh community and as such, is also a firm believer that the community should always listen to Sikh Gurbani and respect ones elders.