The three films of which Dis-Immigration is the latest, evolved from a childhood adventure, an exciting discovery of a lost community of immigrant workers. The first film in the series, Searching for the Sikhs of Tod Inlet, is the personal story of film director David Gray’s 40-year search for information about immigrant Sikh and Chinese workers who laboured and lived at the community of Tod Inlet, near the world-famous Butchart Gardens. He started the search as a youngster digging with his brother in the banks of Tod Creek, where they found fascinating “treasures.” Over time, curiosity led to serious investigation into this immigrant community. Searching for the Sikhs of Tod Inlet is the story of the unknown Sikh labourers, told through archival and modern footage and the personal stories of their descendants. Funded by OMNI TV (Rogers Media) the hour-long film was screened on OMNI TV in Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia in September 2010.

The site of the old immigrant village at Tod Inlet (David Gray)

The second film in the series, Beyond the Gardens’ Wall, tells the story of both the Chinese and Sikh workers living in the community together at Tod Inlet, along with the white workers. The film shows the challenges and changes in their lives caused by Canada’s harsh restrictions on immigration. They laboured in the limestone quarry that was to become the well-known “Sunken Garden” at the Butchart Gardens. Their families were prevented from joining them by the “Head Tax” policy directed at the Chinese and the “Continuous Journey” restriction directed at East Indians. The fascinating history is told through new and old film and stories from community members. A 30-minute film, completed in 2010, Beyond the Gardens’ Wall was also funded under the Community Historical Recognition Program of the Canadian Department of Citizenship and Immigration.

Map of the Punjab, India, showing the area from which most of the immigrants started their journey to Canada (Pardeep Singh Nagra collection)

The Book

Although the present focus of the project is on documentary films, also in the works is a book about the community of Tod Inlet. It will relate the whole story of the cement plant, the people of Tod Inlet, the community structure and the impact they had on the development of the Butchart Gardens and the environment of Tod Inlet. Much of the book will be based on interviews with the descendants of pioneer families of Tod Inlet, the early Asian immigrants, and elders of the Tsartlip First Nation.


Dis-Immigration: Stemming the Flow from India
is being shown at the Victoria Film Festival
Tuesday February 5, 2013
Empire Theatre, 805 Yates Street
9:45 pm

Tickets ($10.00) available at: