By Anne Russell. A veteran of the Indian Army who made history in Canada by fighting for his right to wear his turban in Royal Canadian Legion halls has written a book on the subject.
A Soldier Remembers is the first book to be published by the Centre for Indo-Canadian Studies (CICS) at the University of the Fraser Valley. The book is co-authored by Pritam Singh Jauhal, the veteran at the centre of the story, and Sharanjit Kaur Sandhra, coordinator of the CICS at UFV.
The official launch of the book will be on Sat, Nov 30, from 11 am to 1 pm at the Surrey Library’s Newton branch at 13795 70th Avenue.
Jauhal, a decorated World War II veteran, first came into the public eye in Canada on Remembrance Day in 1993, when he was denied entrance to the Surrey Newton Legion Branch because he was wearing a turban.
In the 1970s Canadian society was struggling with issues of race and racism based on a general ignorance among its citizenry about other cultures, Sandhra notes. “When Pritam Singh Jauhal emigrated to BC, Canada in 1980 he felt shock and disbelief that a man of his calibre and military ranking would have to face a barrage of blatant racism.”
The discrimination Jauhal faced reached its climax during the Remembrance Day ceremonies of 1993 when he was denied entrance to the Surrey Newton Legion Branch because he was wearing a turban. True to his convictions and his Sikh faith, Pritam Singh waged a long and difficult struggle for Sikh veterans to be allowed to wear this key article of their faith in the Legion.
This is a story of Pritam Singh Jauhal’s struggle with the Legion in 1993, but it is also much more than that. This book chronicles the struggles and accomplishments of an immigrant Sikh-Canadian, and the lifelong service he has given to his community.
“In 2011, after we featured a short piece in our Centre for Indo-Canadian Studies newsletter on Lieutenant Colonel Pritam Singh Jauhal’s story and his struggle to wear his turban inside the Royal Canadian Legion, it was decided that his life story needed to be shared as a critical historical moment that changed the landscape on the acceptance of the turban in Canadian society. Thus, the CICS embarked on a two-year journey to do so,” said Sandhra.
“We chose to launch the book in Newton as it was the community in which the defining moment of his struggle against racism took place. It is symbolic of positive changes that have occurred in Canadian society, partly thanks to Pritam Singh’s actions.”
All community members are invited to attend the launch, which will feature the local figures and politicians who supported Pritam in this struggle almost exactly 20 years ago.