We strive to create equality and inclusion through education and healthcare access for underserved communities
Equality and inclusion matter.
Why we do what we do
At Canada India Education Society (CIES), we believe in equality for all. That means equality of opportunity, equality of mobility and equality of freedom. We also believe that communities and their institutions must be inclusive.
But, equality and inclusion are not easy to achieve in societies where, for hundreds of years, the majority of people work in a system that supports a small elite.
Of course, one could argue this is a situation people face all over the world. That’s why we do our work in Canada too. But, in places like India, the problem is especially pronounced. India’s caste system has prevailed since ancient times. It was further refined and formalized by British Colonial Rule in the late 1800s. And, though technically abolished by law in 1948, it continues to be practiced to varying degrees throughout India.
Knowing the challenge before us, we focus our work on two primary areas: education and healthcare.
We believe education and healthcare form the foundation of upward mobility. They are the ‘first steps’ to lifting people out of poverty, and on to a place where they can stand on their own feet. Healthcare and education change families for generations.
Where we do our work
A large portion of our work is centred in the Punjab region of India, particularly in Dhahan Kaleran, which is in the Shahid Bhagat Singh District. This is where our core founders, Mr. Barj (Barjinder) Singh Dhahan, and his father, Mr. Budh Singh Dhahan are from.
How our work began
The senior Mr. Budh Singh Dhahan was not just a visionary when it came to transforming communities; he was a fighter. He fought for Indian independence, Punjab autonomy, and equal language rights. He was jailed six times as a political prisoner.
Later, Mr. Dhahan fought to address inequality based on gender, caste and religion. His family knew first-hand the oppression of money-lenders on farming families and the poor. He wanted his family to be free, including the women. He himself was not highly educated. But, he knew that with access to education, and healthcare, the poor would see justice in their lifetime. During the 1950s he was instrumental in building schools in the region, including one in his home village of Dhahan.
Of course, there is no doubt that Mr. Dhahan’s Sikh faith influenced his ideals – especially in breaking through caste barriers and helping the less fortunate.
With foresight, Mr. Dhahan came to Canada in 1960. He began working in the lumber town of Port Alberni, British Columbia. He was a devout, turbaned, Sikh man trying to fit into a new country, with a new language and a new culture.
During this time, Mr. Dhahan saw that Canada offered publicly-funded education to all of its citizens. And, after 1960, public healthcare, too. This is what made Canada special. India, at that time, and until today, spends a tiny percentage of its budget on primary education. Most government educational support goes to universities and Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), which the poor rarely step foot in.
After bringing his wife and four of his five children to Canada in 1967 (including Barj, who was just 10 at the time), Mr. Dhahan set his sights on India once again. By 1980 he returned with a dream to bring a piece of Canada to India.
To make a long story short, Mr. Dhahan created the Guru Nanak Mission Medical and Educational Trust. This organization built a hospital, a primary and secondary school, and a nursing college on a campus in Dhahan Kaleran (his hometown). These became world-class services accessible to a rural population that desperately needed them. They continue to be supported, and used, to this day.
The birth of Canada India Education Society (CIES)
In 1991, Barj Dhahan founded the Canada India Education Society (CIES) to help support his father’s dream. With him were Mr. Sarup Singh Mann, Mr. Ajit Singh Thandi and Ajmer Mann, along with family and friends.
What we’ve done and what we do
CIES has since seen many successes through vital projects relating to education, community development, health care, and job creation in India.
These days, CIES facilitates international cooperation and collaboration through the promotion of civil society partnerships between Canada and India, with a specialized focus on relationships between groups in Canada and those in Punjab.
For example, CIES initiated dynamic partnerships between the University of British Columbia School of Nursing in Vancouver, Guru Nanak College of Nursing in Dhahan-Kaleran, and Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, in Punjab. Then, in conjunction with Babar Karam Singh Memorial Trust, CIES undertook two significant village infrastructure projects in the Daulatpur and Dhahan villages.
CIES has also maintained a dedicated network of supporters and volunteers who have assisted in fundraising efforts over the years.
We could say ‘the rest is history,’ but the story never ceases to unfold, even as we continue pressing towards our goal in the 21st Century.
Further detail on our projects is available on our website.
Now, it’s your turn
We invite you to join us on our mission to change the lives of real people, with real impact.