Immigrant Film Night Panel Speakers (from left) Harmon Dhanoa

Immigrant Film Night Panel Speakers (from left) Harmon Dhanoa

Lives of Indian immigrants explored at multicultural film night

Indian immigrants in Revelstoke discuss their experiences at multicultural film night last week.

A small but engaged group met on Wednesday night to watch the Scattering of Seeds episode Passage from India, the fifth offering of the Revelstoke Multicultural Society’s Immigrant Film Night series.

The event, held at Okanagan College, honoured Revelstoke residents who immigrated from India, or whose family immigrated in the past.  A panel of guest speakers engaged the audience with stories about their experiences with immigration to Canada and their respective journeys to Revelstoke.  Among those sharing their experiences were Jag Sanghera, Matt Singh, Harmon Dhanoa, and Satish Shonek.

While each of the men’s stories differed slightly, they all spoke about the discrimination they experienced at some point.  Singh, who was barely a year old when his family immigrated in 1965, recalls that at first his family was very well accepted in Revelstoke.

“My mom played sitar, which was really popular at the time, and so she’d get asked to play.  Then in the mid-70s it got bad.  There was quite a bit of racism.  All of a sudden you started hearing derogatory terms,” said Singh.

Dhanoa, too experienced discrimination, although this was much more recent as he immigrated to Canada in 2003.

“When I came to Canada in 2003 I thought, ‘this shouldn’t be so bad’,” said Dhanoa.

Relatives of Dhanoa had purchased a gas station near Red Deer and that is where he worked when he first came to Canada.

One morning while opening the gas station, Dhanoa noticed graffiti painted all over the propane tanks, the gas pumps and the building.

“At the time I was thinking ‘Paki, is only for Pakistan’,” said Dhanoa, who was quickly informed that the derogatory remark was also meant towards Indians.

It was a shocking experience for Dhanoa, but from the experience he learned that people, too, can be helpful.

“People came and helped to clean it up,” he said. “There was an article in the paper as well. I saw that there were two different types of people.”

Shonek, said that when he came to Canada in 1974, he was not aware of the discrimination that existed.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect.  There was no publicity to find out if anything (was going) on in Canada. I had no expectation,” said Shonek.

BR Whalen, chair person of the Revelstoke Multicultural Society said that while the intent is not to make discrimination the focus of the Immigrant Film Nights, it is important to acknowledge the discrimination experienced by immigrants in our community.

“We need to do this in order to start to heal,” said BR.

The next Immigrant Film Night will honour immigrants from Scotland.  Dates are to be determined.  For more information visit www.revelstokemulticulturalsociety.com

Editors note: Melissa Jameson is a member of the Revelstoke Multicultural Society’s board of directors.