For decades, the Paldi Jor Mela celebration has continued at the site of what was, at one time, one of the largest Sikh communities in all of Canada.
Now the story of that community is being revisited in a new book for elementary school students.
“It’s a window into this part of Canadian history when the South Asian community was settling on the West Coast,” said Harman Singh Pandher, author of Welcome to Paldi: a place for everyone.
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The book tells the story of the ancient Vancouver Island town of Paldi, just outside Duncan, and its founder, Mayo Singh, who opened a sawmill in 1917 that welcomed workers from far and wide.
“Nobody was ever turned away. No one was ever left out. No one was left behind. They gave them shelter, food, everything,” Pandher said.
The city attracted people from all over BC, Canada and the world. It became famous as a place where everyone was paid equally and treated fairly.
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“I would say that Paldi really is the epicenter and the model for multiculturalism in Canada,” said Nirmal Singh Parmar, director of the Paldi Khalsa Diwan Society.
“There was no intolerance. They are all the same, the same person and they all got along well,” said Davinder Singh Mayo, founder Mayo Singh’s grandson.
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Eventually the factory closed, business declined, and people began to move out. By the mid-1970s, almost all of them were gone. The Sikh temple is the only building that still remains.
“I always tell people that it is the spirits of the pioneers of the past that live in the Gurdwara Temple and in and around here,” Parmar said.
It stands as a tribute to the founding families of Paldi, what the community was able to accomplish in those early years, and the legacy that lives on to this day.
“I’m thankful for the Paldi pioneers because my family wouldn’t be here,” Pandher said.
“As long as we’re here and running, hopefully for another 100 years,” said Davinder Singh Mayo. “Paldi is world famous. It’s where he started it all.”
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