She was the ticket to a better life
Before Amandeep Dhillon's short life ended in her murder, she was caught between a new family in the GTA she barely knew and one back in India
Jan 31, 2009 04:30 AM
Amandeep, 22, was found stabbed to death at a grocery store in Mississauga on New Year's Day.
Her father-in-law, Kamikar Singh Dhillon, 47, is charged with first-degree murder.
Amandeep's family has been left grieving with few answers. The slaying has also shaken the South Asian community and again raised concerns about the lack of social support for immigrant women, particularly young brides who leave their home and family behind, to live with another family they hardly know.
Some endure a life of isolation and extreme hardship, with the hope their own family – which has invested heavily in dowry money – will one day join them in Canada.
The Star spins the story to focus on the problems of immigrant women from South Asia and the lack of social programs available to help them cope. The paper did this so as not to offend the growing South Asian colonies which is one of the many growing ethnic colonies in Toronto and the surrounding area on which the journal is pegging its financial future. The real story here, which is to the shame of South Asian immigrants, is the selling of their daughters into loveless arranged marriages for the purposes of immigrating to Canada.
SHE WAS her family's ticket to Canada.
Amandeep had turned 18 in 2005 and was studying at a college in northern India, when her parents, Kulwant Kaur and Avtar Singh Benipal, told her a family in Toronto was keen to marry their son, Gurinder Singh Dhillon, to her.
Everything happened in a matter of a few weeks: two men and a woman – common friends – came to meet her one evening in October. They asked a few questions, took some photographs and left a photo of the young man, a beefy 26-year-old with a boyish face. The next day, they phoned to say the wedding should take place on Nov. 11.
Amandeep's family was thrilled. No one had met the boy or his parents, or asked any questions, but it didn't matter. He lived in Canada. An arranged marriage to someone living in North America was seen as a step to prosperity not only for the bride but eventually her family too.
Iqbal Singh Benipal, a friend of the family who lives in Brampton, said when the groom is from Canada or the United States, "Not many people care to even meet the guy before the wedding. It happens all the time in Punjab."
In this case, the boy's relatives had assured Amandeep's family she would be happy.
The family didn't argue when dowry was settled at roughly $54,000, an excessive amount but seen as an investment in their own future. This was in addition to $15,000 the family spent on a lavish three-day wedding that was attended by more than 600 guests.
A month after the wedding, Amandeep's parents were asked by her in-laws to send an extra $2,500 to Canada or her immigration papers would not be filed. Her father, Avtar, pawned his wife's jewellery and sent the money.
Dowries were outlawed in India in 1961 but it is common for the groom's side to seek a dowry and for the bride's side to provide one. The dowry – cash and gifts – is meant to smooth their daughter's move into the new home.
Though rarely talked about in Punjab, it is understood that when a son or daughter marries and moves to North America or England, they will apply for their family to join them. Amandeep was expected to do the same for her parents, her sisters Pawandeep, 20 and Jasvir, 16, and brother Rajvir, 12. When she flew to Canada in May 2006 to join her husband, her family was already counting the days until they would follow.
The rest of the article highlights the terrible period of transition and isolation Amandeep endured when in Canada. Her happiness was sacrificed so that her father-in-law can extract $54,000 out of her family in Punjab, India (plus the $15,000 spent on the wedding as well as the $2,500 to file her immigration papers) and also so she can be used by her relatives in Punjab, India to immigrate to Canada. She was used by conniving selfish men and women to satisfy their materialist fantasies to be realized in the shopping mall that is Canada.
How many Punjab immigrants are in Canada because they sold their daughters off into loveless arranged marriages is anyone's guess. If we consider the amount of marriage fraud that plagues the South Asian community it probably happens more often then we care to admit.
How this kind of immigration benefits Canada the answer is clear. It doesn't! It only benefits the immigrant who is abusing an easily exploitable system which is why Canada needs to put a stop to it and severely restrict family class immigration. This, plus the amount of fraud that plagues Punjab, India it is in Canada's best interest to curtail immigration from that region of India and heavily scrutinize all immigration from it.
This is asking for too much. Though I personally have not experienced any benefit from immigration from Punjab, India and I imagine most Canadians haven't either there are still many immigrants from Punjab, India who managed to get into Canada one way or another. And they vote! And because they vote there will be no political will to stop the abuse either from Canada's politicians or from the South Asian community. Though it's morally wrong it must continue.