Gurcharan Singh Bhatia was born on August 2, 1931 in Doraha, in the northern area of Punjab, as the first of four children to his mother, Kulwant Kaur Bhatia and father, Ishar Singh Bhatia. In July 1947, the Bhatia family evacuated Jammu in the wake of the India – Pakistan partition. During this period, Gurcharan was witness to violence and tragedy which saw the loss of his father and 67 members of his family as they abandoned their ancestral lands. The Bhatia eventually settled in Delhi, India at the home of his maternal uncle, Avtar Singh.
Bhatia achieved his BA from Punjab University in India at Delhi in 1949, where he specialized in a Mathematics honours program. Six years later, he worked as a Chartered Accountant where he developed training and examinations for the Chartered Accountant Designation. In 1959, Bhatia completed Industrial Management Resident Centre for Management Studies at the Royal College of Science and Technology in Glasgow, Scotland where he was awarded the Turnbull prize for high-academic performance on the completion of his post-graduate degree.
On February 9, 1962 Bhatia married Jagjit Kour Bhatia (Jiti) and, later that year, the first of their two children, a daughter, Priti Bhatia, was born. In December 1964, the Bhatia family immigrated to Winnipeg from India, becoming the second Sikh family to live there. On August 15, 1965, Gurvinder Singh Bhatia was born. Bhatia’s mother passed away from a stroke in 1971 in London.
From 1966 to 1970, Bhatia was vice-president of finance and administration for Quality Construction Limited in Winnipeg. From 1971 to 1979, Bhatia was the General Manager for the Bestlands Group of Companies.
In 1980, the Bhatia family moved to Edmonton where Gurcharan founded the Alberta Link newspaper for the purposes of providing information and support to the immigrant South Asian community. The paper ran for ten years, also under the names Prairie Link and then Canadian Link, each representing the paper’s growth and change of focus to the wider South Asian community.
Bhatia’s focus on immigrant issues also grew during this period. From 1984 to 1988, Bhatia was the Vice-President and Director for the Edmonton Immigration Services Association. Bhatia was also a member of the Alberta Cultural Heritage Council from 1986-1987.
In 1989, Bhatia was appointed a member of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, on which he sat for two terms until 1995. The Commission’s purpose is to investigate and settle complaints of discrimination in both employment, and the provision of services by the federal government.
In April of 1990, Bhatia was a member of the Parks and Recreation Cultural Advisory Board Cultural Congress when it invited people from across Edmonton to participate in talks between various non-profit groups. From 1994 to 2004, Bhatia participated as a citizenship judge for the federal government, where he was responsible for reviewing tests and checking applications before allowing successful applicants to take the oath of Canadian citizenship.
Bhatia led and participated in many Canadian trade missions to India. In 1994, he led a delegation of Canadians of Indian origin to Delhi to attend the World Economic Forum. The delegation was honoured by the Chambers of Commerce of New Delhi, Bombay, and Coimbatore. In 1996, Bhatia also participated in a Canadian Trade Mission to India led by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.
For his lifetime of achievement, Bhatia was given many awards. In 1997, Bhatia was inducted as a member of the Order of Canada, the highest civilian award. He has also received a Citation from the City of Edmonton (1999), the Golden Jubilee Medal (2002) and the Alberta Centennial Medal (2004).
In 2010, Bhatia helped found the International Association for Citizens for a Civil Society for the purpose of achieving the five pillars of their mission statement: a right and respect for the life of every born and living human being; the promotion of the rule of law, justice, and non-violence; the advancement of literacy and education; the promotion of human rights and Canadian values, as exemplified in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and the advancement of sustainable economic development and respect for the environment. One of the events organized by Bhatia and the Civil Society is Daughters Day, an event started in 2011 to recognize the achievements of girls and women.
Jiti passed away after a struggle with illness in 2018. Gurcharan Singh Bhatia continues his work with Canadians for a Civil Society as the interim Treasurer.