Nsibe Kaur Puri

Nsibe Kaur Puri in her wedding outfit, in 1952

Nsibe Kaur Puri's family has a long history in B.C. Her father, Baga Singh, arrived in Canada in 1913 and a year later became one of 12 men who formed a committee to support the Indian passengers of the Komagata Maru in their struggle to land in Canada. Despite the efforts of Singh and the other members of the "Shore Committee," the would-be immigrants were turned away and Canada's discriminatory immigration laws remained intact. In fact, Baga Singh, who had left a wife and two small daughters behind in India, had to wait until 1930 to be reunited with his wife, Harkaur. His two older daughters, who were married by then and had families of their own, remained in India.

Nsibe Kaur was born in Duncan a few years after her mother's arrival in Canada. When she was four years old, she and her parents moved to New Westminster. "I grew up as an only child," she recalls, adding that she didn't meet her two older sisters until her husband took her to India to meet his parents in the late 1950s.

Among her most vivid memories is of the day she heard about assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. "My father was leaving for work and when he got outside to meet his friends, who used to gather to walk to work together, someone said he'd heard on the radio that Gandhi had been assassinated. They all came into our house and they put down their lunch buckets and they sat and sort of mourned. I woke up to all the noise and talk going on and my dad was saying Gandhi was assassinated and I started to cry, not understanding why someone would do such a thing."

In 1950, Nsibe Kaur became the first girl of Indian descent to graduate from her New Westminster high school, Duke of Connaught. "Not many girls completed high school back then but my dad always felt I should have a good education."

After graduation, she began her 40 year career in banking when she landed a job at the Royal Bank and believes she was the first woman of Indian descent to work in a New Westminster bank. In 1952, Nsibe Kaur married Bhajan Singh Puri and the couple have two children, Belle and Darcy.

The Puris made their home in New Westminster, where Nsibe is well known for her volunteer work, which was recognized with a Governor General's Caring Canadian Award in 2000. "I always feel that when you live in a community you should be part of it and do what you can towards making it a better place," she says.