Recently, an illuminating and powerful event took place in the City of Vancouver called the 100 Year Journey Gala. In its 5th year, the Gala was a star studded black tie event held at the JW Marriott Parq, and featured many South Asian community leaders. Among the attendees were Surrey Banker Tochi Sandhu, Businessman, Author & Philanthropist Perminder Chohan, Canadian chef, cookbook author & television personality Vikram Vij, Canada's Minister Of National Defense Hon. Harjit Sajjan, Punjabi Bhangra Singer-Songwriter Jazzy B, Veteran Police Officer Kal Dosanjh and others. GRIP Co-Founder Jesse S. Dadwal met with and heard from the celebrated public figures and discussed the vision of reviving a culture of community collaboration to solve collective problems, especially involving today’s youth. The collective problems of drug abuse and gang/gun violence require a plan of action, and with the encouragement and support of community leaders, everything is possible.
Attendees heard stories about South Asian pioneers who faced many hardships on the path to establishing themselves in Canada. Many did not know the language, endured extreme racism, and performed tough, grueling labour to make ends meet. All this, while not knowing if their sacrifices would even pay off..
One of the success stories shared was of Ishar Singh Bains, one of the first Indo-Canadian aviators. Ishar Singh ran away from home in 1907 at just 13 years of age and boarded a ship for Canada. He arrived in Canada and worked in farming, at a lumber mill as well as on the railway. In 1913, he helped form a Punjabi paper for Canada’s Sikhs. A year later, he teamed up with some fellow Sikhs to start the Silver Creek Lumber Company in Mission City, BC. His enterprising spirit then led him to Alberta in 1919, where he and a Caucasian business partner opened a general store.
In 1920, Ishar Singh moved to Winnipeg where he got into mechanical work. Working with machines led to his inventing the "pen point extractor", that he patented and sold and in 1922, he returned to the Pacific Coast to start a logging company with fellow Sikh partners.
All this time however, his dream was to fly, so he thrilled the community by making parachute jumps in Victoria and North Vancouver. He became known in the Sikh community as "Odaroo" (one who can fly). After joining the Air Force Club in Vancouver, he wanted to learn more about flying and in 1929 completed the Flying course in the California School of Aeronautics. But, after getting his license, he found out he couldn't even buy a plane due to his background. After coming this far he knew where there's a will there's a way, so he was able to get his Caucasian friend to buy a plane for him.. The rest, as they say, is history. This is a true story of never giving up, having a burning desire and hanging on to your dreams.
Other inspirational stories were heard about South Asian saw mill pioneers from the last century who built financial empires and performed great acts of community service. The hard work and collaboration of South Asian pioneers set the ground work for thousands of South Asian immigrants to migrate to Canada and obtain jobs and for thousands more Canadians already here to flourish.
The same collaborative efforts of the Pioneers are needed today. Without community collaboration, the youth are unable to see paths to success, and they resort to risky and more dangerous paths. Somewhere along the line, the community stopped working together, and began to be competitive against each other. The collaboration and uprising that was once present among the pioneers appears to be lacking nowadays.. Achieving success and recognition feels like a zero sum game and a hostility towards unity is present that needs to be replaced with thoughts of building up one another. Working together, we can unite on causes and we can all win.
Now more than ever, the youth need the community’s collective support. The GRIP team calls on community members to invest time, money and energy towards youth’ success. Invest in their education, invest in their businesses and invest in their futures. We encourage young people to participate as well, in community get-togethers and events such as the annual 100 Year Gala.
One can go on and on, but we need actions more than words. The youth must step up and show the world that their ancestors did not toil in vain from dawn to dusk, to make their families proud and to become role models..
Let's show how strong we are together. Let's show how much we can accomplish, together. We can do a lot more if we collaborate instead of putting each other down. But first, we have to make the effort to reach out to each other in a spirit of comradeship. We thank the founders, sponsors, and everyone who was a part of putting the Gala together, and encourage them and others to organize more events like it in future.
Authors: Jesse Singh Dadwal & Jashan Singh Randhawa Date: October 19, 2018