Baldev Singh Sangha
Date of Birth:
Village Charpura, Punjab
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 which was about ten miles away from Paldi, BC. Baldev Singh lived with his family 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. Since Baldev’s wife was pregnant at the time he had to find another job quickly in order to provide for his family.
When Baldev Singh came to Canada as an immigrant he was ready to work a labour job; however, he faced many difficulties while looking for jobs because he wore a turban. Eventually when Baldev Singh was called in for an interview the employer was shocked to see that Baldev Singh 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 Singh received training for lumber grading. He worked as a lumber grader at Lignam Mill for fifteen years and 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 Singh continued working this mill until 1999.
Baldev’s first five years in Canada were difficult as he worked very hard in order to survive and feed his family. On March 13, 1970, when his youngest son was born Baldev Singh had to work at two mills for six or seven months to be able to provide fully for his growing family. Since his children were very young, his wife did not start working until 1976. Baldev Singh and his wife worked very hard in order to educate their children.
When Baldev Singh went to William’s Lake in 1969, there were only 14 other Punjabi 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 Singh became the first South Asian member of a committee called the Glendale Improvement District. After three years of being on that committee, Baldev Singh 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 Singh became its accountant because he also had a certificate in accounting which took him three years to complete, through a school in Montreal. He would continue to handle the gurdwara’s accounts for the next twenty years. After the two temples were built, Baldev Singh became the action officer after receiving 821 votes.
One month after Baldev Singh started working in the mill, he received a call from his brother in Youbou. He told Baldev Singh that the principal of his son’s school was pressuring him to cut his hair. That’s when Baldev SIngh 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 Singh 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 Singh 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 even though his son was even 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 Singh has visited India many times. He gives a lot of credit to his wife for giving their children a good upbringing. Baldev Singh 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 Singh 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.