Becoming Canadian: Pioneer Sikhs In Their Own Words


Section 2

Mrs. Gurdial K. Oppal liked the stopovers during the journey because she enjoyed touring these strange and exotic cities. " When we knew that the boat was about to dock, we would all get dressed up, and get in line to go on shore. We toured the whole city, we only went back on board when the boat was ready to leave, we did the same at every port, first came Rangoon, then Penang, and Singapore and finally Hong Kong. "

Hong Kong was a vital stop for all emigrants to Canada for it was here that they received their clearance to proceed. There was no Canadian Immigration Office in India, so all immigration matters were handled here. This included the medical
The Hong Kong Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) 1915.
The Hong Kong Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) 1915. All the Sikhs who travelled from India to Canda at this time had to stop over in Hong Kong. Many of them lived there for months or even years, awaiting clearence to go on to Canada.
examination, documentation and interviewing. It was for this reason that a sizable Sikh population and a Gurdwara had been established.

" Canadian Sikhs had raised money for some rooms with beds on the lower floor of the temple for the exclusive view of the travelers going between India and Canada. They had already sent a huge cooking stove for cooking food as well. You could cook twenty to twenty-five rotis at a time, it was always busy, especially in a place like Hong Kong, people are travelling through transit. Nobody stayed in hotels in those days. I stayed about two months here, I had some problem with my passport and it took a long time to clear this up. When you left you made a contribution to the gurdwara, $10-$15, whatever you could afford. I could even speak a bit of Chinese and do my own shopping. Fortunately, I received my clearance just in time, I caught the boat and arrived in Canada just two days before my eighteenth birthday. I came on the ninth of September and the eleventh was my birthday. If I had been delayed for any reason, I would have been sent back to India. "

Dedar Sihota describes one of many immigration delays: " We stayed at the Sikh temple for fifteen to twenty days while arrangements were made to go on to Vancouver. We had some difficulty with Canadian Immigration. Although my dad had been here since 1907, and had traveled back and forth numerous times, maybe five or six times, there was some problem with documentation. The immigration people in Canada were saying that his permit to return to Canada had run out. The time had expired. We managed to get the passage booked in time to arrive in Victoria prior to this date. There was some question as to whether the ship would get here on time. In those days they were trying everything they could to exclude our people from entering, so any little technicality or anything like that was used to keep us out. "

The gurdwara in Honk Hong was a refugee, a safe haven for Sikhs traveling through Asia. They could be with their own people in a land where the customs, language and laws were unfamiliar. The gurdwara provided not only food and accommodations but also trust, security and fellowship. There were temple officials whose sole function was to expedite and ensure safe travel through the port for all Sikhs. They knew how to handle the multitude of problems that inevitably arose. They helped with immigration and financial matters, health and medical concerns and assisted in booking passage for the final leg of the journey.



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