KITCHENER, ON – The 16th annual Remembrance ceremony hosted by the Sikh community was held on Sunday, November 5 at the military grave of Canadian World War I hero, Private Buckam Singh, in Kitchener, Ontario. It is the only military grave in Canada of a Sikh soldier from the World Wars, and the ceremony is the largest annual gathering of Sikh soldiers and veterans in North America.
“The Sikh community has organized this Remembrance Ceremony every year at the historic location of Private Buckam Singh’s military grave to remember the 117,000 Canadian soldiers like Private Singh that have died since we became a nation; and the 83,000 Sikh soldiers of the British Indian Army that died fighting along side their Canadian and British allies in two World Wars,” said Sandeep Singh Brar, historian, Curator of SikhMuseum.com and the chief organizer of the annual event.
This year’s keynote speaker was Randeep Singh Sarai, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and the Associate Minister of National Defence. Mr. Sarai drew parallels between Canada and being a Sikh, “The concept to serve is something you see when Canadian soldiers cross the ocean to fight…they stepped up to defend the ideals of freedom and liberty. Similarly, Sikhs have always had that same concept of fighting for those that are oppressed, serving wherever they are.”
Mr. Sarai recounted his personal family connection to Remembrance Day – “My father also served in World War II. He enlisted when he was only 15 years old, not knowing much about war, except that his brother was already captured by the Germans as a prisoner of war, unsure if he was dead or alive. These are the types of sacrifices that hundreds and thousands of men and women went from far lands to serve for those ideals that we hold very dear to us and that we can now enjoy our freedoms here in Canada.”
Buckam Singh came to Canada in 1907 from the village of Mahilpur in Punjab and was one of the earliest documented Sikhs living in Ontario. Among those attending the ceremony was MP Parm Bains, who represents the riding of Steveston—Richmond East in British Columbia. Mr. Sarai observed, “We’ve come a long way where a man served for this country over 100 years earlier and 100 years later, another person from that same village now gets to represent his constituents in the House of Parliament.”
The ceremony was well attended with nearly 200 people showing up on the cold day to participate including members of the Canadian Armed Forces, Cadets, Police Services, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Fire Services’ Honour Guards, Royal Canadian Legion branches, veterans and elected officials from federal, provincial and municipal governments.