Harjit Sajjan in K-W to honour WWI soldier Pte. Buckam Singh
Pte. Singh is recognized as the first Sikh man to enlist with the Canadian army during the First World War
Canada's Minister of National Defence, Harjit Sajjan, was in Kitchener-Waterloo on Sunday to take part in the annual Sikh Remembrance Day Ceremony and to honour the grave of First World War hero Private Buckam Singh.
"Private Buckam Singh is a representative of all those who have not only served in the past, but who are currently serving now," Sajjan said.
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Pte. Singh is recognized as the first Sikh man to enlist with the Canadian army during the First World War. He served overseas in France and Belgium and was wounded in two different battles.
Singh's grave lies in Mount Hope Cemetery in Kitchener.
"It was a very poignant reminder that you had people from all walks of life joining Canada to fight in different wars," Sajjan said.
More than 100 people from the community came out to honour Singh and other Sikh soldiers and veterans. Sunday's ceremony started with a Sikh prayer, known as Ardas, followed by the call to remembrance and recitation of Lt.-Col. John McCrae's famous poem In Flanders Field.
During Minister Sajjan's opening remarks, he spoke about similarities with Singh, as they were born in Punjab, India, before moving to Canada.
He also recognized that soldiers like Singh help break barriers for future Sikh soldiers.
"From a personal sense, it was poignant because I had just become a commanding officer at the time and I realized that if it wasn't for people like Pte. Buckam Singh who broke down those barriers, I wouldn't have been able to be potentially a commanding officer," said Sajjan.
Honouring Singh and others
For Sandeep Brar, the organizer of Sunday's ceremony and the person who discovered Singh's grave, having Minister Sajjan at the ceremony was a moment of pride.
"To have the defence minister here is so relevant in so many ways," Brar said. "He is representing all of Canada and by coincidence he also happens to be a Sikh. It's really a moment of pride for the community."
Brar added that Sikh Rembrance Day has grown since it began nine years ago.
"It's a remembrance day ceremony that just happens to be hosted by the Sikh community," Brar said.
"We not just focusing on Pte. Singh anymore but on all Canadian sacrifices in war."