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From Five Rivers to Five Lakes

Paramjit Nagra, ready to attend a wedding in India.


On October 9, 2023, Paramjit Nagra was interviewed by his daughter Sukhman Nagra. Paramjit was born on February 5, 1976, in a small town in Punjabi, India. He immigrated to Canada on July 25, 2001, where he first arrived at Pearson Airport.

In the interview, he was allowed to describe his story of coming to Canada as a newlywed. He got married in India in May 1999 and his wife left shortly after to Canada. He explains his struggles of coming to a new country but is very grateful he had his wife and family here to support him. His unique journey reminds people of the immigration experience of people from various countries. After comparing the immigration of Paramjit, it can be seen that the challenges faced by Indian and Italian immigrants during the early years are symbolic of the universal immigrant experience.

Paramjit’s home under construction in Punjab, India. Photograph from private collection of Paramjit Nagra.

To understand the entirety of Paramjit’s story, the use of ethnographic interviewing was crucial. Through this approach, a semi-structured format allowed the interviewer to and both pre-determined questions and follow-up questions to the answers provided by the interviewee.

Paramjit was the interviewee a part of the discussion. In this one-on-one environment, he was able to express his journey to Canada and the various hardships he had to face. Although the interviewee did not want a video recording, and audio interview was obtained. All images used were from the private archives of Paramjit Nagra. Along with the audio recording, the images also provided a story. 

Paramjit and his first-born daughter in Brampton, Ontario. Photograph from private collection of Paramjit Nagra.

Transcription of Interview

What first brought you to Canada? Were you already acquainted with anyone in Canada before you arrived? Any family?

My wife had already settled in Canada shortly after we got married and my family including aunts and uncles had already been here for a while so it felt right for me to start my journey where I knew I had people. 

Where did you first arrive and when?

So I first arrived at Pearson Airport actually and I remember like it was yesterday. It was July 5th 2001 and my family had been situated in a part of Ontario called Brampton, Ontario. I first remember arriving at my cousin’s house and the fresh smell. They were kind enough to offer my wife and I the basement to live in until we like figured things out you know

Who did you come with and what was the journey to Canada like? 

Paramjit came alone. he was very excited to see my wife and my distant relatives who I had not seen in a while. I think that the excitement overpowered the nervousness.

Why did you choose Canada over Italy? 

So my wife was already here actually. But the thing is however, growing up in India I actually did consider moving to the United States but I chose Canada because I felt it would be most familiar country with me because I had my own family already settled here. Having people you love and Trust in a country honestly makes it way easier than starting from scratch.

How old were you when you immigrated? From which part of India? 

So I had always dreamt of moving to Canada since I was like late teens 20 years old and after getting married I was able to come through sponsorship when I was 25 years old. I came from a little village in Punjab called Jabbowal. 

What do you remember from your first impression of Canada? Did you encounter any obstacles or barriers as a new immigrant to Canada? 

So I was excited to see everyone who had left before me to Canada. I was excited to start my new life in a new country. Walking out of the airport I was thrilled to see my wife waiting for me.

It had been 3 years since we had been married and I was finally living my life with her. When I was in India we had problems with my immigration to Canada. Since they had rejected my file my wife had to handle these legal issues in Canada by appealing the file. 

Once I had arrived in Canada my first job was in a factory making garbage bags. It was not an easy environment and I wasn’t familiar with it. The job was hot, hard, and tiring. Everything seemed new and nerve wracking. 

Did your parents first immigrate to Canada? Do you know of their experience and how does this compare to yours? 

So my dad actually first came in 1982 to visit my brother his brother who was already settled in. He stayed for 2 years and explored the Canadian life. He told us stories about how different it was and how big the buildings he saw were and his experience with the snow and wide diversity.  Once I had settled into Canada I was able to sponsor both of my parents to come here. My father had returned in 2012. However, he died from a heart attack 3 months later. I am thankful you got to meet all three of my daughters and was able to see the life I had built here in Canada. 

Did you bring any items of importance with you when you came to Canada? 

Yeah I actually brought the basic necessities mainly clothes and photographs for memories.

Where is home for you and why?

I would say Canada is now home for me. This is where my family and my life is. My three children, my wife, and my mother are all here, so my home is here in Canada.

Now situated in London Ontario, paramjit and his family have created a huge garden in the backyard which reminds them of their life back home

Looking back on the experience, is there anything you would have done differently?

No, I wouldn’t have done anything differently because I’m grateful for everything that I have and this life in Canada.

Is there anything further you would like to add to the story?

Uh yeah, I’d like to add that I came here with dreams and I’m working hard to fulfill them. I want my children to have a great education and succeed at whatever they choose to do in life. At the end of the day, as long as they work hard I am proud of the life I have built for them.

How does life in India compare to Canada? What do you miss? 

Life in India was much more calm and peaceful. I would spend most of my days farming and taking care of the cattle of the house. I miss the warmth of the fields and the sense of community everyone had in our village. Everyone in the village was like family to each other. I remember my elementary school teacher was also my aunt so if I had caused any trouble that day, I would always get taunted before even being able to step into the house. I had the privilege of going back for both of my siblings’ weddings too. My sister had gotten married in February 2005 and my brother in February 2011. Soon after my brother got married I was able to bring him into Canada along with his wife. I helped settle them in and now he’s raised his children in Canada. My parents came soon after so I was so excited to show them what I had built in this country.

Thank you for sharing your invaluable experience with us. 


Paramjit has shared many invaluable experiences and memories of his journey to Canada. One memory in particular that was invaluable to him was seeing his wife for the first time after being married. Paramjit and his wife had gotten married in May 1999, but she had shortly departed back to Canada. After about 3 years of not seeing each other, Paramjit described seeing her at the airport as thrilling. He was very excited to be travelling and waiting for his final destination and the reunion of his wife.

Another fond memory Paramjit spoke of was the days he spent growing up in India. In these moments, he described India as calm and peaceful. He had spent most of his days farming and taking care of the cattle. His village was a tight-knit family. He explained how his elementary school teacher was also his aunt, so when he and his cousins would cause trouble in school, he would get taunted before even entering the house.

Audio Interview Conducted

Through collecting various archival pieces and allowing Paramjit Nagra to share his immigration experience to Canada, allows us to analyze and compare it to Italian-Canadian history. Italians have been immigrating to Canada for generations now, similarly, Indian immigration has peaked well over the years. Comparing Paramjit’s father’s story of visiting Canada in the earlier days, we can compare it to how Italians immigrated for their dreams and to provide a better life for their family.

The challenges faced by Indian and Italian immigrants during their early years in Canada, such as overcoming language barriers and adapting to a new work environment, are symbolic of the universal immigrant experience. Moreover, both groups carried items of personal and cultural significance from their home countries, reinforcing connections to their roots. While the interviewee’s experience and that of Italian immigrants share these key elements, connections lie in the generational perspective, as Italian immigration occurred in waves, and the interviewee’s father had previously visited Canada. 

References and Acknowledgments

All photographs included have been approved for sharing from the private collection of Paramjit Nagra.

Nagra, Sukhman. Interview of Paramjit Nagra: A journey from the five rivers to the five lakes. October 9, 2023.


To obtain further information please contact by email:

University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Supervisor: Dr. Teresa Russo, Italian Studies Program, University of Guelph