In 1905, as one of the earliest Indian immigrants to Canada, Bhagat Singh Dhaliwal contributed greatly to his adopted country. With generosity and a full command of the English language, he helped others who followed in his footsteps to do the same.
In 1911, he was one of 20 Sikh pioneers to fund the construction of the Gur Sikh Temple, North America’s oldest Sikh temple, designated in 2002 as a National Historic Site of Canada. He went on to serve as secretary of the temple and become a member of Vancouver’s Khalsa Diwan Society and stakeholder in the Guru Nanak Mining Trust Company. The trust, established by Sant Teja Singh, was created from the Sikh principles of hard work, sharing and brotherhood of mankind, and was used to assist Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims become independent farmers in B.C. Bhagat Singh is also mentioned in Mahinder Singh Dhillon’s A History Book of the Sikhs in Canada and California as having come to the medical aid of a fellow mill worker who had collapsed.
Born on September 15, 1883 in the Punjabi village of Chananwal, Bhagat Singh would be nearly 40 by the time his wife, Harnam Kaur, was able to join him in Canada in 1923. The couple raised their four children — Harbajan Singh, Mohinder Kaur, Balwant Singh and Gegander Kaur — on their two-acre farm in Abbotsford, where he had originally settled.
In 1936, the family embarked on a trip to India. Unfortunately, Bhagat Singh became ill on the voyage and was forced to go ashore at Hong Kong, where he passed away at just 52.
His legacy lives on, however, in his two surviving children. His son, Balwant Singh, and his wife, Joginder Kaur, raised their six children in Mission and Abbotsford. And his daughter, Mohinder Kaur, and her husband, Bhag Singh Mann, raised their seven sons and two daughters in Merritt. Mohinder and Bhag lived their remaining years in her father’s “hometown” of Abbotsford, where they both passed away.