Baltej Singh Dhillon
Country of Origin:
Immigration, Asian Heritage, Racism/Discrimination, Multiculturalism & Diversity, Adjusting to Life in Canada
Baltej came to Canada from Malaysia after the death of his father. Arriving in Canada was a shock, including the racism that he dealt with. Baltej also speaks on his experiences of being a member of the RCMP.
My name is Baltej Singh Dhillon, and I'm from Malaysia. I came to Canada in 1983, and I came to Canada under some very difficult circumstances. I lost my father when I was sixteen, and that's what perpetuated the move and the travel into Canada. I travelled here with my two younger sisters and my mom. I came to Canada and we landed in Vancouver. We were greeted by immigration here. They were wondering what we brought and we said that we had four hundred dollars US among ourselves, and they were quite surprised and wondered how we were going to make do.
When we got outside - coming from a tropical country - it was great first meeting our family, but then coming outside... it was December and it was cold. The sun was shining, but it was so misleading. We assumed... I assumed that it would be just like Malaysia and you'd come outside and it would be thirty degrees. Well it wasn't, and it was close to zero, or minus one or minus two, and there was snow on the ground, which we always heard about but never saw.
My first day at school I experienced what I later knew to be one type of racism, if you will. I had someone slap a sticker on my back. Towards the end of the day, I had another fellow who I became friends with. He came over and said, "Hey Baltej. You've got something on your back." He peeled it off and it read, "Go Home Paki!" So that was my first day at school and my first real introduction into Canada. Everything was different. Schooling was different - we didn't have to wear uniforms. Boys and girls went to the same school. There was a lot of adjustment.
Currently, I'm a Sergeant in the RCMP, and I work in the Major Crime Unit in Surrey and Vancouver area in the lower-mainland of BC. I'm a polygraph examiner. Prior to that I was an investigator on the Air India Task Force, and I spent seven years on that task force. Prior to that I worked in Quesnel for four and a half years, from '91 to '95, and that was my first posting after graduating from the training academy in Regina.
Life in Canada has been great. We had a rough start. I worked on the farms. We all had to pitch in - long hours, long days - but the rewards were just great, because having done that work, it allowed me to go to college, it allowed me to go to university, and ultimately allowed me to pursue a career that I wanted in law-enforcement. Canada lived up to it's promise, which is to treat everyone equally and fairly, and even though the issue regarding the turban was tumultuous and very trying - not only on me, but also the community at large - at the end of the day the results speak for themselves, and ultimately for the constitution of this country prevailed and individuals' rights were held up in the face of a large populace who were against it. So to that end, my faith in Canada has been strengthened, and I think having travelled the world it is, by far, the most free country in regards to human rights.