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Soldiers, veterans and residents gather in Kitchener to celebrate Sikh Remembrance Day

The event is considered to be the largest gathering of Sikh solider's and veterans in North America

A gathering of Sikh solider's, veterans and residents took place in Kitchener to pay respect to WWI Sikh solider Private Buckan Singh on Sikh Remembrance Day.

Sandeep Singh Brar is the curator of and the organizer of the Sikh Remembrance Day Ceremony that took place on Sunday.

He says the event was started 12 years ago in Kitchener as it is the only known location of a grave marker for any Sikh soldier who served in WWI. 

"From very humble beginnings, it's grown to be a very large annual event." says Brar, "This year is a very special year, as it is the anniversary of his (Singh) death in 1919."

"This a very opportune spot to be holding a ceremony of Remembrance, not only for Buckam Singh, but to all Canadians who sacrificed." 

Brar says he learned about Singh after he acquired a WWI victory medal from a dealer in England 14 years ago.

He says originally, he thought the medal belonged to a Sikh soldier from the British-Indian Army, until he saw the 20th Canadian Infantry inscribed on it.

"I was shocked, I was like 'there's no Sikh's in the Canadian military at that time!' " says Singh Brar, "So I spent two years researching him in the archives in Ottawa uncovering his remarkable story and bringing this hero to life."

According to Brar, Singh was one of the first documented Sikh's living in Ontario.

"Most of the early Sikh pioneers at the time had a military background," says Brar, " But when they tried to join, they were turned away."

"Out of the thousands tried, nine were allowed to join." he says, "Buckan Singh was one of them and he was the first Sikh to join an Ontario regiment and he fought overseas in the 20th Canadian Regiment."

While serving, Singh was injured twice and was once taken to the same hospital where Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae worked, who later wrote the poem In Flanders Fields.

After the war, Singh Brar says Singh contracted tuberculosis, and was taken back to a military hospital in Kitchener where he died in 1919. 

Brar says Singh's story laid forgotten for almost a century before he discovered the medal. 

"I think it's kind of a 'destiny' that I was meant to find that medal and to uncover that story." says Singh Brar. "It's really a unification of this great Canadian hero with his people after almost a hundred years."

Brar says Singh's story is also meant to unify Canadians of all backgrounds, especially as an elementary school in Peel Region is being named after him.

"Many different ethnicities and many different people contributed to the wars and to keeping us safe and our way of life." says Brar, "So it's just a wonderful story to celebrate for all Canadians."


Ariel Deutschmann

About the Author: Ariel Deutschmann

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