Creating Connections: Private Buckham Singh

April 1, 2024

Education Newsletter

< Back to Newsletters
This is some text inside of a div block.

Private Buckham Singh

By Myriam Brenner (FSWC Education Program Coordinator)

Sikh Heritage month is an opportunity to celebrate the present and past contributions of the Canadian Sikh community. Most Sikhs living in Canada today can trace their roots to the pioneers who left India at the beginning of the last century, undertaking the challenging journey to British Columbia.

Private Buckam Singh was the first Sikh to enlist with the Canadian forces in World War I. Born in India, he immigrated to Canada at age 14.  Of all South Asian immigrants to Canada, 98 per cent were Sikhs, who were often the target of hate groups.

At the time, restrictive immigration policies only allowed Sikh men to immigrate without their families. In 1908, Sikh immigration dropped drastically as far-reaching Canadian legislation restricted immigration to only those who could come by “continuous journey and through tickets from the country of their birth or nationality or citizenship.” Sadly, there were no direct ships from India to Canada.

Singh enlisted to fight in WWI, becoming a member of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He was one of nine Sikhs in the Canadian army. He fought in the battlefields of Flanders and was wounded in two separate battles. He then developed Tuberculosis and as soon as he was able to travel, was sent back to Canada. Unfortunately, he died alone on August 27, 1919. He was buried with full military honours at Mount Hope Cemetery in Kitchener, Ontario.

Interestingly, the hospital Singh was admitted to overseas, was run by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, author of the famous wartime poem “In Flanders Fields.”