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Canada releases first Heritage Minute in Punjabi

Heritage Minutes are sixty-second short documentaries, that illustrate an important moment in Canadian history.

Screengrab from the Heritage Minute released by Historica Canada.

To commemorate Sikh Heritage Month in Canada, Historica Canada is released a new Heritage Minute, which explores the rich culture of Paldi, a small town in British Columbia populated by South Asian immigrants.

The Heritage Minute, that highlights the history of South Asian Canadians, introduces the mill town through the eyes of a Sikh woman, Bishan Kaur, who was the wife of the town's founder. According to a news release, the town was home to Sikh men who worked at lumber camps in the 20th century.

In 1917, Mayo Singh and 35 other Sikh lumbermen established the Mayo Lumber Company on Vancouver Island that had South Asian, Chinese, Japanese, and white workers. Soon after, buildings were erected, including a Sikh gurdwara and a Japanese temple, as well as bunkhouses, cookhouses, and a school. The town was known as "Mayo" or "Mayo Siding" before it was renamed Paldi in 1936, after Mayo Singh's home in Punjab.

"Paldi BC was a small community in size, but its impact on Canada and the lives of the South Asian community endures to this day," said Anthony Wilson-Smith, president and CEO of Historica Canada. "In many ways, the struggles, resilience, contributions and ultimate triumphs of those living in Paldi reflect the larger picture of the evolution of inclusive multiculturalism across all of Canada."

The Minute was filmed in August 2022 and produced by Historica Canada and Scopitone Films. It is the first Heritage Minute to be dubbed in Punjabi, with Mannu Sandhu voicing Bishan Kaur and Gugun Deep Singh (Compliant) providing the end narration.

The video was produced in consultation with Dr. Satwinder Bains (University of the Fraser Valley, South Asian Studies Institute), Dr. Tzu-I Chung (RBCM, Punjabi Canadian Heritage Project), and Kathryn Gagnon (formerly Cowichan Valley Museum & Archives).

"I feel a deep and emotional appreciation for this Heritage Minute in particular because the history it portrays touches me to the core of my being," said Satwinder Bains. "As a historical consultant on the project, Paldi and Bishan Kaur's story evoked in me a poignant indebtedness to the early Sikh settlers who helped build our beautiful province. As an immigrant myself I am extremely proud of our rich and vibrant history that has been captured in this Heritage Minute."