Buncy Pagely

Date of Birth:
Victoria, BC
Current City:
Duncan, BC

Buncy Pagely is a third generation Canadian who was born in Victoria in 1941 in a Catholic hospital called St. Joseph Hospital. Her grandfather, Battan Singh Beadall arrived to Canada in 1913 leaving behind his wife and his son who was born in 1912. It took four months for her grandfather to get to Vancouver which included journeying from his village, Tutkallan, near Hoshiarpur, to Kolkata. From there he boarded the ship and began his four month journey to Vancouver. Buncy’s grandfather was a part of the shore committee which helped to raise funds for the passengers on board the Komagata Maru ship in 1914. According to Buncy, it is amazing how her grandfather was able to settle with hardly any money.

At the time, it was a majority male community and as such, when her grandfather reached Victoria, there was only a group of men living in bunkhouses. While one person did the cooking, others did the rest of the chores. Because of this many of the men forged great bonds together and with each other.

Buncy’s mother and father (Mahinder Singh) were married when they were young, with her father being only 17 years old. Mahinder Singh came to Canada in 1921 while her mother and grandmother remained back in India. Years later, in 1933, Buncy`s mom, dad, grandmother, and her father`s brother who had recently been born, came to Victoria via boat from India. During this journey, Buncy’s mother was expecting her sister which proved to make the journey quite difficult with it being such a long journey.

By the time the rest of the family joined Buncy’s grandfather, he was continuing to work hard while his business was flourishing. He was also very involved with his local community with the starting of the temples in Victoria and Vancouver. Her grandfather was very involved in the community including working with temples and helped them to flourish and grow. Mahinder Singh was also very involved in sports and used to put together local volleyball games and races during the Indian Independence Day celebrations on August 15. Both Mahinder Singh and his father worked together in such community work until they became more focused with the mainland.

According to Buncy, each gurdwaras (temple) had its own celebration. Gurpurab (Guru’s birthdays) were celebrated in one temple and Vaisakhi at another. In order to take part in the celebrations, the South Asian communities used to go to downtown Vancouver from Victoria on a boat.

The South Asian population of Victoria was around 500 people when Buncy was growing up.  According to Buncy, the new gurdwara in Victoria was made because of a community dispute where half wanted only turbaned men on the committee while the other half said that committee membership should be open to those without a turban. Buncy’s whole family was married in the same temple. Now her grandchildren are also getting married there.

Growing up, Buncy didn’t face racism personally although there were racist incidents happening to others at her school. The only word that Buncy had been called was a ‘Hindu’ but that didn’t bother her. Since she knew that there was racism, she became involved with local multicultural programs.

According to Buncy, everything was different back in the mid-20th century. All of the women were sisters to one another and aunties to the kids. In the late 1950s, Buncy and her friend began teaching English classes for women that came from India in the Gurdwara while Buncy’s husband Raj taught 8-14 year old children Punjabi folk dance. Buncy and Raj volunteered for these types of programs for fifteen years. One of the highlights of their volunteer service includes being immersed in the Commonwealth Games and in the 1994 Olympics, being invited to carry the flag.

Buncy knew that healthcare was something she really wanted to be involved in as an advocate. As such, she started working on cancer awareness campaigns, including pap smears, breast cancer, and breast self-examination. Buncy was also interested in heart health and even went to India to learn from the cardiologists there.

Buncy’s father, Mahinder Singh, inspired to her do everything she has done. Her husband Raj and she were both honoured with the Honorary Citizens Award in 1985. Another highlight for Buncy and her family was the (Dis) Enfranchisement exhibit at the Sikh Heritage Museum which featured images and stories of her father, Mahinder Singh.

Buncy and her family have volunteered their time and done many wonderful things for the community, a true legacy based on the pioneering efforts of Battan and Mahinder Singh Beadall.