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Gurdev Singh Gill, Canada's first Indian-origin physician, dies at 92

IANS | December 26, 2023 09:20 PM

TORONTO: Gurdev Singh Gill, who made history in 1958 as the first Indo-Canadian to practise medicine, passed away at the age of 92 in Canada's New Westminster city.

Gill moved to Canada from India in 1949 at a time when there were only about 2, 000 South Asians in the country, the CBC news channel reported, citing Canadian Encyclopedia estimates.

"He was the first Indo-Canadian to graduate with a medical degree from the University of British Columbia and the first Indo-Canadian to practice medicine in Canada, " according to the British Columbia government.

On Sunday, community members gathered at a gurdwara in Vancouver to pay respects to Gill who died on December 17.

He was an active staff member of St. Mary’s, the Royal Columbian and Queen’s Park hospitals, and was active in fundraising for the Cancer Society, Rotary Club and the Children’s Hospital. He was honoured with the Order of British Columbia in 1990 in its inaugural year, alongside luminaries such as musician Bryan Adams, Olympic medallist gymnast Lori Fung and businessman Jim Pattison.

"Being on stage with all those other wonderful Canadians. He was so proud of that recognition, " his grandson, Imran Gill, told CBC, adding that his grandfather lived "a very selfless life".

He also received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. Gill was devoted to "uplifting others" not just in Canada but building sanitation infrastructure in Punjabi villages, including the one he left in 1949, Imran said.

"His medical practice was more than a medical practice. It was a community hall where new immigrants came for guidance and advice, " he added.

Gill went on to become President of Vancouver's Khalsa Diwan Society, following which he oversaw the building of a new gurdwara in South Vancouver at a time when few existed for local Sikhs.

Jarnail Singh Bhandal, South Vancouver gurdwara's assistant secretary, told CBC that Gill's presidency was marked by a provincewide effort to raise funds for a new, larger building to host worship, meals and community events for the burgeoning faith community.

He retired after 40 years of practice in New Westminster, and went on to help 25 villages in Punjab with infrastructure and educational improvements through the Indo-Canadian Friendship Society, which was founded by him, the Global News reported.

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