On Dec. 12, 1930, 17-year old Indar Singh Gill got his first glimpse of Canada. "I remember the red rotating lights in the shape of the W above the Woodward's store," he would later write in his unpublished memoirs.
Gill left a wife and child behind in India when he came to Canada. At that time, Canada was in the grips of the Great Depression and finding work was becoming increasingly difficult. In the summer of 1931, Gill headed to Kamloops to pick tomatoes and potatoes. He then went to Vancouver Island to work at the Great Central lake Sawmill, where he made 18 cents an hour.
By 1939 Canada had entered the Second World War. Indians living in Canada were unable to go back to their homeland until the war was over. In 1943, Gill received a letter from the Canadian Army asking him to join, something he was against. "I was neither a Canadian citizen and did not have any rights to vote. I had no desire to serve in the Canadian Army," he wrote.
Gill, along with others in B.C.'s Indian community, helped to send Dr. D.P. Pandia to Ottawa in an effort to change immigration and citizenship laws. In 1947, the Canadian government decided to relax their immigration laws, allowing Indians to bring their families to the country. Finally, Gill was able to bring his wife and son to Canada.
The family settled in Mission, where Gill became involved in a company delivering wood and sawdust to people's homes. He would soon start his own fuel business, Indar Fuel Company, and later purchase a sawmill and shake and shingle mill.
Throughout his life, Gill was an active member of the Abbotsford Sikh community. He served as the president of the Abbotsford Sikh Temple in 1951 and 1979 and believed strongly in promoting the Sikh religion in Canada.
"I regard India as the place of my birth and ancestral roots," he wrote in his memoirs, which were part of the Matsqui-Sumas-Abbotsford Museum Society's Indo-Canadian generational exhibit. "I regard Canada as my home and my country."
Indar Singh Gill passed away on Nov. 9, 2002, at the age of 89.