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Asian Heritage: Kuldeep Singh Bains

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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


Kuldeep-Bains-PostAvtar Bains always knew his father, Kuldeep, was a pillar of the community, but he was reminded just how giant a figure his dad was at his funeral in September. Family after family approached Avtar and his sisters with stories about how Kuldeep helped them as they adjusted to their new life in Canada.

“Dad would be the first person new immigrants would meet,” says Avtar. “He wouldn’t just meet them at the airport, he’d drive them to Port Alberni, Honeymoon Bay, Duncan, Nanaimo, Lake Cowichan. He even drove a young man from Vancouver all the way to Prince George to settle him in with his family.”

Generosity and justice ran deep in Kuldeep’s blood. Soon after arriving in Victoria from Mahilpur, Punjab, in 1938, at the age of 18, he began working in sawmills. When he learned that East Indian workers were being paid 35 cents per hour while the Caucasian workers earned 45 cents, he became an active member of the International Woodworkers of America (IWA) to fight for equality. In 1944 he was the youngest delegate to attend the Canadian Congress of Labour Convention in Quebec City.

Meanwhile, he was acting as translator between travel agents and South Asians who didn’t speak English. “He thought these people were being mistreated, so he said, ‘I’m going to start my own travel agency and service our community myself,’” recalls Avtar. He applied for and received his license in 1951, and opened the doors of Bains International Travel Service in Victoria, Canada’s first Indo-Canadian-owned travel agency.

The business did not thrive at first, ironically because of Kuldeep’s ingrained sense of generosity. “Dad was one of the first guys in retailing history in Canada to say ‘Buy now, pay later,’” says Avtar. “If people needed to get back to India or have family members here, he would accommodate that need. So he did it from a community perspective not an economic perspective. As a result, there were many years the agency suffered.”

But, remarkably, the company endured: In 2002, Bains Travel received an award for its 50 years in business, but the family closed it down soon after. Avtar’s sisters, Surinder and Krishna, had been running a branch in North Vancouver for many years, and his cousin Paul still operates three outlets.

During the heyday of his agency, Kuldeep continued to be the go-to guy for advice and help — and a little tipple from time to time. “There were three distinct rooms,” remembers Avtar. “When you walked in you saw the travel agency, then Dad’s office, which was essentially the community centre, because if there was any kind of social or cultural issue, he was in the middle of it.

Behind Dad’s office was a tiny room with two couches in it, which I liked to refer to as the first unlicensed Punjabi bar in Victoria. The guys got together and drank and talked about everything from the right to vote to politics.”

Over the years, Kuldeep served as secretary of the Khalsa Diwan Welfare Committee and the East Indian Canada Citizen Welfare Association. In the 1940s he was instrumental in getting Indo-Canadians the right to vote; in the early ’50s he lobbied the Ministry of Immigration over discriminatory laws; in 1968, he was elected president of the Khalsa Diwan Society and oversaw fundraising for the expansion of Victoria’s Topaz Avenue Sikh Temple; in 1969 he was elected president of the temple and served until 1971. In 1996, he was given the Governor General Caring Canadian Award, and was also bestowed the National Indo-Canadian Council Distinguished Pioneer Award and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

“When we were growing up, Dad never once came home and said, ‘We did this or we did that’ for other people,” says Avtar. “We had to hear these stories from the recipients, not from our father. He knew it was a big deal but he didn’t treat it like he should be rewarded in any way. It was building the community.”

And growing his family, teaching his children and leaving a legacy. “In business, he told me something I should have remembered when I was a kid,” recalls Avtar, president of Vancouver commercial real estate firm Premise Properties. “He said, ‘It’s not the asset you own, it’s the cash flow that’s derived from the asset.

“I wish he’d told me what that really meant when I was 20 years old because I wouldn’t be working today! Dad wasn’t one to lecture us; he was one to lead by example. So if we couldn’t figure out what he was doing for other people, we were brain-dead.”

Kuldeep Singh Bains, who was predeceased by his wife, Davender, in 1991, passed away on September 27, 2014 at the age of 94.

The creator of Surrey604.com, Daman Beatty (AKA 'Beatler') is originally from Sackville, New Brunswick. A longtime media producer, visual designer, marketing and communications specialist, Daman loves travel, technology and being a Daddy.

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Discover first major exhibit in Canada to shine spotlight on Surrey’s Punjabis

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Surrey, BC – A contemporary and engaging exhibit led by Surrey’s Punjabi community is coming to Museum of Surrey October 2 to February 23.

Being Punjabi: Unfolding the Surrey Story is the first major exhibition in Canada to shine a spotlight on Surrey’s Punjabis, showcasing their stories of struggle and success. The exhibition is intended to be a catalyst for discussion and sharing, while also documenting histories of this diverse community.

Engage with personal objects, archival documents, art and riveting stories – all brought forth from a diverse group of people in the Punjabi community.

“We are pleased to unveil the first community-led exhibit at the Museum of Surrey, which highlights the vibrant and diverse culture of Surrey’s Punjabi community,” said Mayor Doug McCallum. “The Punjabi community has a long history in Surrey and the 16 stories that are the centrepiece of this exhibit will illuminate the contributions they have made to our City. Thank-you to all of the community members who have come forward to share their story and make this feature exhibit such a success.”

Earlier this year, the museum sought the voices of Surrey’s Punjabi community by holding a series of community sharing sessions at locations throughout the city. Staff asked Punjabi residents to share stories, photos and personal objects for display in the exhibit. Sixteen stories have been selected to be the centre of this community-led feature at the Museum of Surrey, which are transcribed in both Punjabi and English.


Artifacts sourced during the sessions, include farming equipment, cooking utensils, historical documents, hand-woven tapestries, textiles and much more. Visitors are also invited to contribute their stories about Punjabi culture via the museum’s Show and Share display on the second floor. People are invited to lend their own objects for display inspired by the exhibit or personal travels and experiences.

This new feature exhibit opens October 2, and the City of Surrey invites members of the public to a free Exhibit Spotlight celebration on October 5 from 1 to 4 p.m.

The family friendly event will include live performance, henna and crafts, as well as free food samples.

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City Council renames Surrey street to commemorate Komagata Maru victims

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SURREY | Surrey City Council has approved the renaming of a Surrey street to commemorate the victims of the 1914 Komagata Maru incident. At last night’s Regular Council Meeting, Council voted to authorize the installation of commemorative signs that say Komagata Maru Way on 75A Avenue between 120 Street and 121A Street.

“Surrey is a city that embraces diversity and renaming this stretch of road is a reminder that intolerance has no place in our city,” said Mayor Doug McCallum. “As we celebrate and welcome people from all over the world, we also need to learn from our past to ensure such injustices never happen again.”

In addition to the commemorative street name signs, Council also approved the installation of a storyboard at R.A Nicholson Park, explaining the history of the Komagata Maru and a city project to document the history and contributions of the earliest South Asian residents in Surrey.
Commemorate the Victims of the Komagata Maru Incident

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Local History

Surrey names park in honour of African American settler

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The City of Surrey announced today a park will be named in honour of one of the first African American families to settle in the area in 1912.  The park site, located in Cloverdale at 64 Avenue and 181A Street, was formerly referred to as 77C Utility Row, and now officially holds the name of Henry Houston Scott Park.

The park sits on part of the original Scott family property and is home to fruit trees originally planted by the family. Along with officially naming the parkland, a heritage sign has been installed to share the Scott family’s story and will allow park users to learn more about the history of their contributions to the community.

“Council is pleased to support the naming of this park, as we recognize the important role that the Scott family played in shaping the community,” said Mayor Doug McCallum. “Naming this park after Henry Houston Scott provides a sense of history and belonging to our residents and city as a whole.”

Henry Houston Scott was an African American born in 1854 in Texas.  He married Amy Florence Alridge in 1880 and the couple had ten children and resided in various U.S. states before arriving in Canada.  In 1912, the Scotts and three oftheir children, Roy, Jesse and Benola moved to the Fraser Valley, settling in Cloverdale along the border of 64 Avenue and approximately 181A Street.

The Scotts grew hay and farmed dairy cattle which contributed to tremendous growth and development in Cloverdale between 1912 and 1971. When Benola Scott, the family’s youngest child passed away in 1971, she was laid to rest with her family in the Surrey Centre Cemetery, where a family gravestone was installed in 2018.

As the steward of the city’s natural environment, Surrey Parks works together with the community to celebrate nature and protect the environment, while building a legacy for future generations and celebrating Surrey’s rich cultural history.

With over 300 parks, 300km of trails and over 7000 acres of parkland, Surrey is home to an abundance of parks and natural areas interconnected throughout the city. Surrey Parks aims to continually create opportunities for everyone to get outdoors and explore, discover and connect with nature. Surrey is an open, inclusive and diverse city that fully supports and celebrates Black History Month.

For more information, visit surrey.ca/parks.

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20 Years in the Making | #webelong

Did you know that BC was the first province in Canada to close all it’s large institutions that segregated people with developmental disabilities? (Inclusion BC). That was 1996! In 2007, Canada signed the UN Convention on Rights of Person’s with Disabilities, which required member nations to develop legislation that promoted the human rights of person’s with disabilities and create a more inclusive society. (CCD) And in 2009, Canada’s first and largest institution, the “Huronia Regional Center” once known as the “Orilla Asylum for Idiots” finally closed. (Wikipedia) Canada has come a long way in 20 years! Now, those who were segregated are full participants of our culture and society.

And that’s because of Change Makers, who worked tirelessly over the last half a century to make a difference one person, one action, one moment at a time. That’s why we are excited to share our next episode because person’s with disability, and their advocates, are taking their message, their story, our story as a nation, to other countries who are beginning their journey from segregation to inclusion. Get ready for episode 3 where we follow a team from Langley BC to Hunedoara Romania.Help us share their message of inclusion by liking and sharing their story when it premiers this week.

Want to learn more about the history of the disability right movement in Canada, watch this story from Inclusion BC:

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Did you know that BC was the first province in Canada to close all it’s large institutions that segregated people with developmental disabilities? (Inclusion BC). That was 1996! In 2007, Canada signed the UN Convention on Rights of Person’s with Disabilities, which required member nations to develop legislation that promoted the human rights of person’s with disabilities and create a more inclusive society. (CCD) And in 2009, Canada’s first and largest institution, the “Huronia Regional Center” once known as the “Orilla Asylum for Idiots” finally closed. (Wikipedia) Canada has come a long way in 20 years! Now, those who were segregated are full participants of our culture and society.

And that’s because of Change Makers, who worked tirelessly over the last half a century to make a difference one person, one action, one moment at a time. That’s why we are excited to share our next episode because person’s with disability, and their advocates, are taking their message, their story, our story as a nation, to other countries who are beginning their journey from segregation to inclusion. Get ready for episode 3 where we follow a team from Langley BC to Hunedoara Romania.Help us share their message of inclusion by liking and sharing their story when it premiers this week.

Want to learn more about the history of the disability right movement in Canada, watch this story from Inclusion BC:

Special Thank You to Our Sponsor

Pacific Development Pathways


Want to become a change maker too and share your brand message alongside our content and stories?

Learn more and download the Sponsorship Package Today! http://bit.ly/TCM-Sponsor-Package


Little Bird Media – www.littlebirdmedia.ca
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/little_bird_media/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/littlebirdmediaca/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/KafkaJJ

Surrey604 – https://surrey604.com/
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/surrey604/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Surrey604/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/sry604

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Local History

Guildford Town Centre and Museum of Surrey Hosting ‘What We Bring’ Exhibit

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New Exhibit to Feature Objects and Artifacts That Local Individuals and Families Brought When First Immigrating to Canada

In celebration of Canada Day, Guildford Town Centre and the Museum of Surrey will be hosting a new exhibit, What We Bring, June 25th to July 9th. The exhibit will showcase many beloved objects and artifacts that people carried with them when first immigrating to Canada. What We Bring will be open to visitors during regular mall hours at Centre Court at Guildford Town Centre.

“We are very pleased to bring this exhibit to our shoppers here at Guildford Town Centre. It provides our shoppers with the opportunity to engage with the Museum of Surrey in our Centre while bringing the community together.” Kyla Way, Marketing Director, Guildford Town Centre.

Some of the items that will be on display as part of the exhibit include:

  • An antique trunk brought to Canada in 1914, by nine-year-old Elizabeth Muir when she immigrated to Canada from Scotland aboard the RMS Hesperian. Elizabeth is the grandmother of Kyla Way, Guildford Town Centre’s Marketing Director. One of over 100,000 British Home Children sent to Canada from Great Britain between 1869 and the late 1940s, Elizabeth was given the two-foot by one-foot box to make her journey – it held everything she had in the world when she came to Canada.
  • Hand embroidered wedding gown brought to Canada by Dalia Al Husseini from Palestine. Dalia is from Jerusalem and a shopper at Guildford Town Centre. The gown was worn by Dalia at her wedding and was given to her by her mother in 2009. It is painstakingly handstitched by Palestinian refugee and expert embroiderer Raghad Hatahet.
  • A Teddy Bear won at a State Fair in the 1950’s lent by Trudy Deichen of Surrey, BC and shopper of Guildford Town Centre. This teddy bear with red fur body and red fur chest was won by Trudy Deichen’s father for her at a state fair in Washington State when she was 8 years old.  Her father Jimmy Parker worked as a logger. Trudy was born in Bellingham and grew up on Orcas Island. Her family was a pioneer family on Orcas for hundreds of years, and their items are still displayed in the local museum. She later immigrated to Canada with her husband who was a teacher.  The bear is one of only 2 items Trudy has left from her childhood.
  • A Cake Pan with recipe lent to the exhibit by Sharon Clayton of Surrey, BC and Guildford Town Centre shopper. The items were brought to Canada by Sharon’s mother Marjorie Kentish Davis who lived in Jamaica and who met her husband Kenneth MacRae Campbell in Jamaica. He was a piper in the Canadian army. Mary was a war bride from Jamaica to Canada. There were many war brides from England to Canada, but not many know about women from Jamaica to Canada.  The items were lent by Sharon Joan MacRae Campbell (now Clayton) who was the first-born child of Marjorie Kentish Davis. She was born in Jamaica. The cake pan on display and recipe were Sharon’s mothers. The pan was used to make Jamaican Christmas Pudding a traditional pudding that was steamed.
  • A Briefcase from Thailand “Hitachi” from about 1990 on loan from Mr. Win Zaw  of Surrey, BC and a shopper at Guildford Town Centre. He has lived in Canada for 30 years. Before he came to Canada he was a refugee from Myanmar (Burma) to Thailand.  On display is a photo ID from a refugee labor camp where he lived in Thailand. The briefcase was purchased in Thailand and came to Canada when Mr. Zaw immigrated. He said inside were his few possessions including 500 Thai Baht, about $20 Canadian.

“Talking to shoppers we heard so many deeply sentimental stories and learning that this exhibit matters to the people of Surrey. Our vision is to be the best people’s museum in Canada. And so, with this exhibit, it is important for us to be in a public location such as Guildford Town Centre and to talk to people who may not often visit the Museum. We want to tell the stories of the people of Surrey.” Colleen Sharpe, Curator of Exhibits, Museum of Surrey.

For more information visit www.guildfordtowncentre.com

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