Canadian Sikh Heritage | Sadhu Singh Sekhon
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Sadhu Singh Sekhon

Sadhu Singh Sekhon was born on 2nd June, 1934 in village moom, district Sangrur, Punjab. His father’s name was Bakshish Singh Sekhon and mother’s name was Balbir Kaur Sekhon. He was married to Gurmail Kaur Sekhon in 1942 and they had two sons named Jatinderpal, born in 1959 and Narinderpal, born in 1962.

In India Sadhu Singh Sekhon was a science teacher and taught grades nine and ten for 17 years.  When he left India to come to Canada he was very excited because as a young boy he had heard a lot of good things about Canada. Sadhu Singh Sekhon reached Victoria, B.C., Canada on 14th August 1972 as a visitor. He did not have any relatives in Canada; however, some of his students and friends lived here. Sadhu Singh’s journey began with him leaving India on 13th August 1972 by taking Pan-am Airlines, and staying for a short time at Honolulu airport in Hawaii for about 10 hours. From there he reached Seattle and stayed there for another 10 hours. Finally he boarded a small plane to Victoria, B.C.  Because he had former students he knew living in B.C, Sadhu Singh lived with one of his students in New Westminster upon his arrival.

Sadhu Singh Sekhon did not face any language barriers as he was able to understand English from the education he received in India. He also had learnt French because in order to get permanent residency in Canada, one was required to have a certain number of points and knowing French was an asset. After his approval of permanent residency in Canada, Sadhu Singh Sekhon gained employment at Fords and James. He also said that he wanted to teach in Canada as well but due to the burden of supporting his wife and kids back in India he started working. Sadhu Singh submitted all his India degrees to a college in Canada and passed the grading examination. He started to study accounting through correspondence. After completing 2 years, he was told that more work experience was needed to get into the third year. He started applying for jobs and found out that every company would give a random explanation about not selecting him. Some told him he was over qualified and some said he was over age. He became very frustrated and asked one of the interviewers if his being a “hindu” was the reason for not selecting him. The interviewers however denied this. Sadhu Singh was very upset with all this and decided to never work or apply for such a position in any company.

During this time in the 1970’s most of the jobs available to Indo-Canadians were related to the lumber industry. Without any hesitation Sadhu Singh Sekhon chose to settle down and work as a lumber grader in the reindeer mill for two and a half years until he got his permanent residence. He later started working as a lumber shipper in a Japanese Mill called Gilsi Timble in 1972 and worked there for 20 years with a starting wage of $3.00 per hour. By the time he retired in 1996 his wage had increased to $25.00 per hour.

In 1972 Sadhu Singh visited the old gurdwara in Abbotsford for the first time. Everyone in the gurdwara had helped Sadhu Singh Sekhon during his stay in Abbotsford. Sometimes he used to stay in the gurdwara and with him there were many other Sikhs living in the gurdwara who did not have relatives to support them. Some of these people lived in the gurdwara until they received their immigration or earned a job. According to Sadhu Singh, some of the prominent Sikh pioneers who had come much earlier, for example, Paul Singh Dhaliwal or Mota Singh Grewal, as well as the granthi at the time, Gurdev Singh Mustana would be the ones to provide much support and guidance to the newly arrived immigrants.

By May, 1975 Sadhu Singh’s family including both of his sons had joined him in Canada after he was able to successfully sponsor them. The first time Sadhu Singh Sekhon went back to India was for the wedding of his son and he then returned to Canada after two or three months. When reflecting back over the last four decades in Canada, Sadhu Singh Sekhon feels that there is a great difference in today’s society than earlier as there are a lot of Indians in Canada now. He’s proud of the achievements that Indo-Canadians have made and how they have been able to overcome so many barriers.