In celebration of Asian Heritage Month, Surrey604 will share inspirational stories of South Asian pioneers in B.C., in collaboration with 100 Year Journey project. The 100 Year Journey Project is providing readers around the world the gift of being able to read the extraordinary stories of South Asian Canadian Pioneers in all formats with a digital release.
The 100 Year Journey Project’s publication tells the stories of some of the first South Asians in Canada, detailing how they provided shelter and support for new immigrants, fought tirelessly for the voting rights of all communities, and spent years away from their loved ones as they set up new lives for themselves and their families. For more information visit 100yearjourney.com
Sarjit Siddoo’s parents decided their children were going to become doctors – even before their two daughters were born in 1926 and 1927 on Vancouver Island.
“My parents decided their kids were going to be doctors and help the poor in India,” says Siddoo, who did indeed go on to become a doctor, as did her sister. Sarjit graduated from medical school in 1950. Her sister Jagdis, graduated a year earlier.
“We were the first Canadian-born Indians in the country, male or female, to become doctors,” says Siddoo. “Sometimes people would say, ‘Why don’t you become nurses?’ But Dad would say, ‘Why become nurses when you can become doctors?”
Dr. Siddoo’s father, Kapoor Singh Siddoo, was a leader in Gadar Party, a Canadian-based organization formed to help free India from British rule. His dedication to the people of India inspired his dream to build a hospital near Aur, the village where he was born in the district of Nawanshar, Punjab.
The two Siddoo sisters visited India for the first time in 1951. “Mom and Dad wanted to show us the village. There was no running water, no sewage system. We weren’t too impressed,” recalls Dr. Siddoo.
Although they didn’t immediately fall in love with the country, the two young doctors did embrace their father’s vision to provide free medical care to those in need. In 1959, after years of hard work by the Siddoo family, Kapoor Singh Canadian Hospital was finished. “Mrs. Indira Gandhi formally opened it,” says Dr. Siddoo.
Since then, Dr. Siddoo and her sister have returned to India to work at the hospital virtually every year.
This interview originally appeared in the November 2003 edition of **Mehfil Magazine**
Dr. Sarjit Siddoo was born on Vancouver Island where her father, Kapoor Singh Siddoo, owned a lumber mill. In 1964, she married Dr. Avtar Atwal, who went on to become dean of Punjab Agricultural University. Dr. Siddoo passed away in Feb 2013.