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Indo-Canadian community matriarch passes away aged 89

By Richmond Sentinel

Published 3:41 PST, Tue November 15, 2022

Last Updated: 5:07 PST, Wed November 16, 2022

Tej Kaur Dhaliwal (née Olak) passed away peacefully at Richmond Hospital on Nov. 8 aged 89, surrounded by her loved ones. 

She is survived by her husband of 77 years, Harchand Singh Dhaliwal; her children: son Harbance "Herb" and daughters Beverly (Narinder), Ginger, Sargy Chima (Makhan), Darshy, and Susan Sahota (Gurpal); 11 grandchildren: Vinay (Jessie), Andrea (Gurpreet), Justin (Pam), Paul (Ranu), Iain (Sue), Jessica (Aman), Felicia, Adam (Jaclynn), Shantel, Aaron, and Sean; and 10 great-grandchildren: Jalen, Aria, Amrit, Kaiden, Avani, Aidyn, Amyra, Bhani, Arjyn, and Riley. 

The daughter of the late Karam Singh and the late Rullee Kaur, Tej Kaur was born in Chiheru, Kapurthala district, Punjab State in 1932. Together with her then six-year-old son Herb, in early December 1958 she made the journey to Vancouver to join her husband (a native of Dhingrian in the Nawanshahr district of Punjab). 

Their immigration followed the lead of her late father-in-law, Dharm Singh Dhaliwal, one of the original Sikh pioneers who first arrived on the west coast in 1908. Tej Kaur and Harchand Singh were among the second wave of Indian immigrants to western Canada in the post-Second World War era. In Canada, Tej Kaur gave birth to five daughters and one son, the late Harminder Dhaliwal (1960–1962). 

Tej Kaur dedicated her life to provide for her family after her husband lost his eyesight. She became a pillar of the Sikh community at Vancouver's Second Avenue Gurdwara, the Ross Street Temple in Vancouver, and the No. 5 Road Gurdwara Nanak Niwas in Richmond. When Canada’s immigration policy favoured family unification in the 1960s and 1970s, Tej Kaur and Harchand Singh migrated their siblings, their spouses, and children to join them here from India. Throughout her life, Tej Kaur played an instrumental role in sponsoring hundreds of families’ immigration to Canada.

In the 1990s, she took special pride in witnessing the election of her son to the Parliament of Canada in Ottawa, and his rise to prominence in national public affairs. The Honourable Harbance "Herb" Singh Dhaliwal PC, MP served for ten years in the cabinet of Prime Minister Jean Chretien as the first federal minister of Indian origin in Canadian history.

The family wishes to acknowledge and thank the many doctors, nurses, and staff at Richmond Hospital for their kindness and attentiveness to Tej Kaur.

The funeral for Tej Kaur will take place on Thursday (Nov. 17) at 10 a.m. at the Riverside Funeral Home and Crematorium (7410 Hopcott Rd.) in Delta, followed by final prayers at the Gurdwara Nanak Niwas (8600 No. 5 Rd.) in Richmond.

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