Raj Dhir

Country of Origin:

India

Themes:

Citizenship, Immigration, Racism/Discrimination, Human Rights & Social Justice, Identity & Heritage, Multiculturalism & Diversity, Adjusting to Life in Canada, Refugee Experiences

Photos:

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Bio

Before coming to Canada, I taught English literature in a university college in Panjab, India. I am also an accredited group facilitator and Life Skills Coach and worked in that capacity with International Women of Saskatoon. A large part of my career was spent with the Federal Public Service as a Program Officer for the Women's Program of Status of Women Canada. I also coordinated the delivery of the Joint Learning Program of Treasury Board Secretariat in the Prairie Region. This program focuses on enhancing union/employer relations and to create and sustain a racism-free and harassment-free work environment in the federal public service. In my volunteer capacity, I served as the National Vice-President for Human Rights with the National Component of Public Service Alliance of Canada. At present, I am serving as the President of the Hindu Society of Saskatchewan and am involved with NGO's working for equality for women, racialized Canadians, and disadvantaged groups. I served on the Board of International Women of Saskatchewan and the Race Relations Committee of Saskatchewan Intercultural Association.

Story

I immigrated to Canada from India in 1970 as a sponsored individual. I speak Hindi, Punjabi and a bit of Urdu. l am a Hindu by birth.

For the first ten years of coming to Canada, we lived in small mining communities as my partner was a metallurgist. So, we lived in Quebec, Manitoba and New Brunswick before we moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 1980.

Some of the challenges I faced as a newcomer were loneliness, being away from family with little or no communication. Also, since we were in small communities, we could not buy Indian groceries or meet other people from India. Also, there were no Hindu Temples around in the near vicinity. Also, there was a lot of emphasis on assimilation within the mainstream culture. At least, so it appeared, as Canada's Multiculturalism Act and policies came much after.

I was able to get a teaching position within six months of my arrival. But I found it difficult to re-enter the work force after staying home for 10 years to raise my family. That is when I went back to university and completed my B.Ed from University of Saskatchewan. I had a teaching diploma from McGill University prior to that.

My re-entering into the work force was as an English as a Second Language instructor and Life Skills Coach for new immigrant women. But soon after, I got a job with the Department of Secretary of State, Government of Canada. I managed grant programs for Aboriginal citizens as my first assignment, but later moved to the Women's Program. Throughout my career with the government, I held many position with the Public Service Alliance of Canada and facilitated workshops at major union conferences. As a retiree, I belong to APSAR (Association for Public Service Alliance Retirees) and also serve on different community boards.

Being Canadian means freedom of faith and conviction, ability to speak without fear of backlash, guarantee of security of person, political freedom. It is not to say that there is no racism in Canada. However, we do have mechanisms to challenge it and address it. Lately, we have seen erosion of some of these mechanisms, e.g. Court Challenges Program and similar social development programs. But the violation of basic human rights does not go unnoticed here.

I became a proud Canadian in 1987 when I got my citizenship and took oath of allegiance to Canada. It was a very emotional experience for me as I renounced my Indian citizenship at that point.