What was life like for early settlers on Vancouver Island?
Located on Vancouver Island between Lake Cowichan and Duncan, Paldi was established in 1917 by a man named Mayo Singh. Mayo migrated to Canada from India and named the small community after the village he left behind. Life was difficult for immigrants in those days, and many struggled to find employment. Mayo Singh was known to offer those seeking a new life a job with fair pay and a place to stay.
Due to racist policies such as the Chinese Head Tax and the Continuous Journey Regulation, men would often travel to Canada first in order to establish themselves before sending for their families. This often kept families apart for years before they were finally able to reunite. Many of those men and families seeking a better life worked for mills.
At its peak, Paldi was home to about 1,500 people. People from many nations lived there, including those of Chinese, Japanese, South Asian and European descent. There was also a Sikh temple and a Japanese temple, an elementary school and spaces for games such as volleyball and the weightlifting competitions held in the summer months. Those who lived and grew up in Paldi reflect on their time there fondly and speak about the warmth and acceptance they found within the community. The population of Paldi was very diverse, especially for its time and place, and the harmonious life that the residents created lives on in their memories.
The story of Paldi is one of community. People came together from all over the globe to forge new lives for themselves. They found welcome and acceptance in their neighbours, and with that they created a sense of belonging. What can we learn from Paldi today?