Ottawa Arts News is pleased to present this exclusive interview with Gobinder Gill an award winning broadcaster, speaker, author, actor and columnist.
Gobinder Gill was orphaned in India at the age of eight, raised by relatives and then immigrated to Canada at the age of nine. He faced a disadvantaged childhood and extreme racial prejudice. Learn more by reading below on how he overcame adversity and is now leading others within the Canadian film and media industry down the path of diversity and inclusion.
Ottawa Arts News - What was it like immigrating to Canada at age 9?
GG - I felt scared, lost, but hopeful that life will become a little better. Everything was new and foreign" people... streets... stores... buildings. the English language..wardrobe and homes"
Ottawa Arts News - Can you please share more on the extreme racial prejudice you encountered?
GG - "Racism was constant, everywhere like thick smoke coming out of a chimney. There are too many incidents to list !!!
Here are just a few:
- At age 12, getting spat by an adult at a bus stop. Other bystanders pretended nothing happened and I also pretended nothing happened to avoid further embarrassment.
- Grade 10 English teacher constantly reminded me, "... do not to get into a field that requires English because you're going to work in a saw mill anyway..."
- Children in school constantly called out derogatory names: Hindu, Paki & Raghead.
- Cousins, whom I grew up with also labelled me.." stupid, dumb, ugly"
- Radio listeners calling to complain, "Take that Hindu off the air".
Ottawa Arts News - What was the cultural landscape like at the time you were growing up in Prince George, BC, what events were shaping in the media and who was in office as PM of Canada at that time?
GG - "All immigrants, especially visible minorities such as East Indians, were considered uneducated, unwanted and outsiders . Inferior who smelled of curry. The men worked in the saw mills, and women could not find jobs, not even washing dishes.The mainstream media would carry stories stating that these people (East Indians) should go back to India. The Prime Minister at that time was Pierre Trudeau, who allowed immigration into the country, but the attitudes of Canadians were slow to change".
Ottawa Arts News - After graduating from high school in Prince George, B.C you came to Vancouver in 1981 and entered the workforce — only to find yourself once again encountering prejudice and discouragement. What did you do mentally to ignore the naysayers who told you that you would amount to nothing?
GG - "I tried to ignore everything but it was hard to ignore. I told myself that I had no choice but to succeed. I gave myself permission to fail. I believed, even when I failed, I did not really fail. I just knew how to do something better next time".
Ottawa Arts News - When you encountered this prejudice and discouragement now in your adult years what did you do to move forward and how did you deal with those discriminating you?
GG - "This is where common sense and wisdom comes as well as resiliency...all derived from past experiences. I knew when to bite my lips and knew when to stand up for myself and others".
Ottawa Arts News - What led you to pursue your dream of a career in the media?
GG - "Cher. Please watch the short video on YouTube called - Thank You Cher) By watching this video you will get a better picture of my story".
Ottawa Arts News - You have acquired a Bachelor of Applied Journalism degree as well as several diplomas and certificates in acting and film, how did your education translate into your vision and help you along the way?
GG - "I am not sure, but I think one thing led to the other. One thing kept me going which was to show all the naysayers that I could make my dreams come true. The best revenge is SUCCESS".
Ottawa Arts News - Could you please share on your experiences writing a syndicated column and numerous articles for Metro Valley Newspapers and The Vancouver Sun on business, cultural diversity and other issues involving ethnic communities? How did the public receive your work? Did you ever feel in danger?
GG - "It was not easy because no newspapers wanted to hire an ethnic reporter, especially dealing with multicultural issues. But as usual, I persisted and eventually they allowed articles to appear on a regular basis. The immigrant population liked the articles, however, white Canadians not so much. A large number of readers would constantly write to the Editor to complain that my articles on multiculturalism and say they were a waste of time".
Ottawa Arts News - You shared a bit about working for CBC Radio and Television as a reporter and researcher. During this time you had complaints about your name and were struck with much adversity, how did you overcome this and how did you continue to hold your head high despite the challenges and prejudice?
GG - "Barriers, obstacles, other hindrances were nothing new in my life, so I knew my long term goals which were to succeed and not rock the boat. If I complained too much then I would be ousted and labeled as a trouble maker. I removed the term "no" from my vocabulary. Here is an excellent analogy - If you lost your passport or other documents in a war zone, you somehow need to get out because there is no outside help. Now you think differently ....life is not fair, the sooner one knows the better. I also knew that there was no one going to help me, therefore, start making things happen and hopefully motivate others along the way".
Ottawa Arts News - I understand on-top of all of these talents you also are an actor. Do you feel the film industry has changed in terms of being open to diversity?
GG - "Not all!!! Casting directors will state that they want people of diverse backgrounds to audition, but they have no intention of casting visible minorities for the most part. But it looks good on a piece of paper saying they want diversity!
like behind the scenes things are beginning to shift".
Ottawa Arts News - You have written a book titled “Achieving Prosperity through Diversity”, which was named the #1 Best Seller on Amazon, and spoke at TEDx Stanley Park in a speech titled Diversity – Evolution of the Unthinkable. How has the book changed things in your world and how have others received your work?
GG - "Well, many astute business owners realize that Diversity in the workplace is vital. However, businesses do not necessarily implement the solutions unless they really need to. Example: Recently, Starbucks closed all the stores for unconscious bias training. This came about after two Black patrons who were waiting for a friend and were taken by police. This time Starbucks GOT CAUGHT".
Read more on the Starbucks incident and resolution here - https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/may/02/black-men-arrested-starbucks-settlement
Click the image below to be directed to purchase Gobinder's Book on Amazon.
Ottawa Arts News - What would you suggest to the next generation of film industry and media professionals in order to move society forward to create an inclusive film and media industry?
GG - "Talk about it, put pressure on the stakeholders to implement changes".
Video - Diversity: Evolution Of The Unthinkable: Gobinder Gill at TEDx Stanley Park
For more information or to contact Gobinder please visit http://www.gobindergill.com/