Baldev Singh Sangha

 

Date of Birth:
1933
Birthplace:
Village Charpura, Punjab
Current City:
Surrey, BC

Baldev Singh Sangha was born in the village of Charpura in Punjab, India on December 17, 1933. He made his decision to come to Canada when he was in his 30’s. His wife’s grandfather came to Canada on September 11, 1907 and his father-in-law came in October of 1924. During this time no one brought their families along with them. Baldev Singh’s brother married Baldev’s wife’s sister and came to Canada in 1955.

Baldev Singh, his wife and their three children came to Canada on September 3, 1969 via airplane, landing in Vancouver. During that time, Baldev’s brother was living in a small town named Youbou, BC. It was about ten miles away from Paldi, BC. Baldev lived with his family lived in Youbou for a bit but soon moved to William’s Lake because he was unable to find a job as a teacher. In the search for a job, he went to the Department of Education in Victoria but they told him that he had to wait eight months before they could view his case. However since Baldev’s wife was pregnant, he had to find another job in order to provide for his family.

When Baldev came to Canada as an immigrant, he was ready to work a labour job. Baldev faced many difficulties while looking for jobs because of his turban. Eventually, Baldev was called in for an interview. The employer was shocked to see that Baldev was able to speak English. It was a common assumption that a man with a turban could not speak English and was not educated. After he was hired, Baldev received training for lumber grading. He worked as a lumber grader at Lignam Mill for fifteen years. He then worked as a quality control person for four years but since it wasn’t a secure job, he went back to being a lumber grader. Baldev continued working this mill until 1999.

Baldev’s first five years in Canada were difficult. He was working very hard in order to survive and feed his family. On March 13, 1970, his youngest son was born. In order to provide for his family, Baldev had to work at two mills for six or seven months. Since his children were very young, his wife did not start working until 1976. Baldev and his wife worked very hard in order to educate their children.

When Baldev went to William’s Lake in 1969, there were only 14 families living there. The population was around 5000 and there was only one traffic light in the town. On the weekends, they would all get together and go to each other’s homes. In 1972, Baldev became the first South Asian member of a committee called Glendale Improvement District. After three years of being on that committee, Baldev became the vice-president of the gurdwara in William’s Lake. The gurdwara was built in 1974 but it opened in 1975. Once he quit as the vice-president of the gurdwara, Baldev became its accountant because he also had a certificate in accounting. He handled the gurdwara’s accounts for twenty years. He earned his certificate in accounting from Montreal through a corresponding course that took three years to complete. After the two temples were built, Baldev became the action officer after receiving 821 votes.

One month after Baldev started working in the mill, he received a call from his brother in Youbou. He told Baldev that the principal of his son’s school was pressuring him to cut his hair. That’s when Baldev decided to write the principal a two page long letter expressing his concerns. In the letter, he wrote that it was intolerable that he had asked the young boy to cut his hair. The principal of the school then replied with an apology letter. One year later, Baldev bought a home and his family also moved to William’s Lake. When his children started to go to Glendale Elementary School in William’s Lake, the principal of that school also told Baldev’s son to cut his hair. Eventually Baldev went to the school to meet the principal. She told him that his son had to cut his hair in order to play any of the sports at the school. Baldev then presented the principal with examples of many Sikhs with turbans that played sports at the international level. Despite the principal’s constant pressure of wanting his son to cut his hair, he did not consent. His son was also bullied by other Indo-Canadian students in high school because of his turban.

Baldev has lived in one home for twenty-five years because he wanted to ensure that his children received a steady education. From 1976 to present day, Baldev has visited India many times. He gives a lot of credit to his wife for giving their children a good upbringing. Baldev believes in passing on his education and experiences to others that need it. In William’s Lake, he helped around forty people each year with their taxes. Since Baldev’s grandfather was a freedom fighter, Baldev has learned a lot from him about values. Baldev Singh Sangha faced many hardships in his journey of settling down in Canada and he gives the credit of his success to God.