Fight For Honour, Religion Didn't End With World Wars
By Lieut Colonel (Retd) Pritam Singh Jauhal Second World War Veteran
I was not allowed admittance to the Lounge of Newton Legion, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, a Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, while celebrations for Remembrance Day in 1993, were under way. The Legion had specially invited Indo-Canadian World War Veterans through proper invitation, widely published in local newspapers. As a disciplined Army man, I visited the Newton Legion on November 8, 1993, three days before the Parade to seek details of the celebrations and dress to be worn for the occasion.
Despite clearance of a formal jacket and turban by Mr Arni Bayless, the Parade Commander, I, along with three retired Indo Canadian Junior Commissioned Officers (J C Os) and an Other Rank (O R) was stopped at the Lounge Door. As per the Legion’s Bylaws, entering the Lounge with a head-dress was strictly prohibited. What, I fought for was, not against the dress By-laws, but the fact, that for a Sikh turban was not a mere head-dress.
My father and I put our lives on the line in First and Second World War respectively to defend the Commonwealth and maintain Democracy in which different people could live together and enjoy freedom in peace. I fought with a turban on my head along with Indian Infantry Brigade Signal Section under 5th Indian Infantry Division. Later, I represented my country India, at the International Commission for Supervision and Control in Vietnam from March to December,1961.
In 1969, I was sent on deputation to Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) under Indian Ministry of Home Affairs where I served as a Signal Battalion Commandant providing signal communications to the Directorate General, a number of Inspectors General and Deputy Inspectors General of Police and over 30 Duty battalions deployed in many Indian States on anti-insurgency duties. To ensure good Signal Communications, I had to make frequent visits to my men attached to the Duty Battalions. During my journeys for such visits, I was provided with an Armed Platoon for my protection.
My convoy was ambushed by insurgents on many occasions. Five home-made bombs were thrown at my jeep in middle of Calcutta City. Luckily, I escaped unhurt. The Director General of C R P F congratulated me for my miraculous escape. I finally retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the Indian Army and a Commandant from the CRPF after close to 40 of meritorious service, earning as many as 13 medals. I migrated to Canada in April 1980, to spend final years of my life with my children.
The Newton Legion Remembrance Day Parade was led by Mr Arni Bayless, followed by a Colour Party, the Pipes Band, the Veterans, Scouts Brass Band and the Scouts themselves. The Parade assembled at the Newton Swimming Pool and marched to Newton Legion Cenotaph on 73rd Avenue and formed up for the ceremonies, which included a speech by Mr Frank Underwood, Legion President, offering of prayers for the fallen comrades, laying of traditional wreaths, sounding of the Last Post followed by Reveille and observance of two minutes silence in memory of the war dead. I could not control my emotions during service for the war dead.
It was perhaps the first time that non-Canadians were participating in the Parade. Everything was going fine until, marching, I reached the Lounge Door, where I was asked by two attendants to remove my turban to enter the lounge. How could I? I tried to reason out, to make them understand that I was an invited guest and the significance and symbol of a turban for a Sikh. Four other Sikh Veterans marching in the Parade behind me too were prohibited from entering the lounge. They also joined me. Newton Legion President Mr Frank Underwood was called to the Lounge Door, at my request.
Introducing myself, I shook Mr Underwood’s hand and thanked him for inviting me to his Legion to enable me to shed some tears while remembering the parted friends. Please tell the door attendants to let me in the Lounge to attend the final ceremony, I said. Mr Underwood replied “ I am sorry, Sir, the Legion By-laws do not permit me to allow you to go inside the lounge with turban on your head.” I told him that I did not come on my own. I came on an invitation from your Legion. I should, therefore, be treated as your Legion Guest with respect and decency and taken inside the lounge. He was adamant and said “ I am sorry, I cannot change the By-laws. By-laws are By-laws.”
I told Mr Underwood that if he wanted to be so rigid about his Legion By-laws for not permitting Sikhs with head-dress inside the lounge, he should have made it clear in the invitation, as is customary. Had he done that, I would have been the last person to come and get insulted, humiliated and embarrassed publicly. Mr Underwood replied “ Mr Arthur Helps, a member of his Legion had issued the invitation without his approval. Had he contacted me, I would have made sure that the head-dress restriction was included in the invitation.” I replied that I am not aware who Mr Helps is? The invitation I read was from your Legion, not from Mr Arthur Helps.
Since your invitation did not mention anything about the head-dress restriction and now that I have come, are you not duty-bound to treat me as a guest and take me inside the lounge in person? Mr Underwood responded “ I am afraid the legion by-laws are absolutely against entering the lounge with head-dress. You can however, go inside the lounge by removing your turban” he said. I told him that he has committed two offences, firstly by insulting me as an invited Guest and now by hurting my religious feelings by asking me to remove my turban.
I did not give up, knowing that Mr Underwood himself was not a World War Veteran. I made all-out efforts to make him understand that for a Sikh, the turban was not a mere head-dress; it was a part of his religion’s direction; that, he never removes it from his head, even when dead, is cremated along with it. I also told him that when I met the first President of India, Dr Rajendra Prasad at Sarojini Nagar near Lucknow presenting him with a “Guard of Honour” in 1952 and the President of Vietnam, Dr Ho Chi Minh in 1961 in Saigon, I appeared with my turban on my head.
Queen Victoria was proclaimed as ‘Empress of India‘. On receipt of reports from British Viceroy in India, on the valour and gallantry displayed by Sikhs during Anglo-Sikh Wars of 1845-46 and 1848-49, the Queen ordered that Sikhs be enlisted in the Indian Army and they be permitted to keep their turbans and beards. She also ordered that her personal bodyguards at Birmingham Palace, England be also turbaned Sikhs. Not only that, for her Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 1897, she ordered that two Sikh Regiments be specially invited from India to participate in the ceremonies.
I explained to Mr Underwood that the Sikhs fought all their wars including World War I and II with turbans on their heards. They never wore helmets. I also said that when Second World War was declared, a General Order was issued saying that all troops taking part in the Operations will wear helmets. The Sikhs refused to fight without turbans. The General Order was therefore rescinded in their favour. I also said that in the pre-Independent India, British and non-Sikh Commissioned Officers had to take off their hats to enter the combined Officers Messes, whereas the Sikh officers were permitted entry with their turbans on. Even in Buckingham Palace of England, Sikhs were allowed to appear before the King and the Queen with their turbans to receive their Victoria Crosses, the highest award for valour and utmost bravery. Even while saluting a dead body, Sikhs in uniform are required to wear turbans because we believe it, as a gesture of respect for the dead.
I also told Mr Underwood that there is no occasion, as per our religion, when a Sikh is supposed to remove his turban. In British Columbia, all the 12 Municipal Police Forces have permitted Sikhs to wear their turbans. In the Canadian Parliament, the House of Commons, the only turbaned Sikh Mr Gurbax Singh Malhi sits as a Member of Parliament (M P). He addresses the Speaker of the House with a turban on. Regretfully, all my pleas fell on Mr Underwood’s deaf ears. About 8 Newton Legion members who listened to my arguments attentively, demanded that Mr Underwood take the 5 respected Sikh Veteran guests inside the Lounge. They also asked him to change the head gear By-law for that one day to accommodate the guests, but the President refused point blank.
About 6 Senior female members of Newton Legion who keenly listened to my arguments with Mr Underwood were in tears. They told me with folded hands “Gentleman, we are extremely sorry for the manner in which you have been insulted as a guest. We apologize to you on behalf of our Legion. We elected Mr Underwood as our Branch President. We shall deal with him and fire him to teach him a lesson.”
As a result of all that happened, Ms Penny Priddy, MLA for the constituency in which the incident took place and a Minister in the British Columbia Government, walked out of the Lounge as a protest against the manner in which we the Sikh guests were insulted in public. She was scheduled to deliver a speech on the occasion inside the lounge. Along with her, Councillor Bruce Ralson and a few others too walked out of the ceremony. This, inevitably brought the national and international media on the scene.
Baffled and upset yet determined, I went to my house, where I found crews with two T V Trucks waiting for me. They asked me to accompany them to the very Door of Newton Legion where I was stopped from entering the Lounge because they wanted to interview me there. I agreed and accompanied them. On arrival at the Newton Legion, I was bombarded with questions by a throng of media-types. Seeing so many of them, I told them that I shall not go home until and unless I finished with each one of them.
I knew that through them, my case will be made known to the entire World. I can safely say that there must have been over 50 media-types because I stayed there giving interviews for more than an hour and a half. A number of Newton Legion members present there were sympathetic towards me. They promised to be with me in my battle….. This happened to be the beginning of my Battle Royal, which I fought for many months most enthusiastically and tactfully with full help from Media.
Why did this case become International?
There had been thousands of cases against the wearing of turban throughout the World. They got settled locally through Human Right Commissions/Tribunals. They never spread World-wide. In this particular case, because five of us Sikh Veterans were insulted, humiliated and embarrassed in public as invited guests, the case was unique in the history of mankind. It astonished the entire World. People in general, were horrified to learn that this really had happened. For this very reason, this case was extensively covered by the National as well as International media.
I was made to speak on various national T V stations for about 20 times and on radio talk shows on at least 15 times to give detailed account of the incident. I also received numerous telephone calls from many countries for interview. A T V team came all the way from Australia to interview me. Representatives of British Broadcasting Corporation (B B C) interviewed me on phone many times. Besides, Journalists and Reporters called me from great many countries including U S A and all Canadian cities. As a result, I was kept awfully busy by the media round the clock.
Ms Reeta Sharma, a Reporter of Chandigarh Tribune came all the way from India. She told me that she had seen my name and photograph extensively in the newsprint and in electronic media in India. She, therefore decided to come to Canada and interview me in person Her interview lasted for over two and a half hours. Her beautifully covered story was published in Chandigarh Tribune on July 29, 1994. A quotation from her story follows:
“The 73-year-old War Veteran Pritam Singh Jauhal would put many lazybones to shame. Once offended and humiliated, he fought the battle of his pagri, symbolic of his honour and religion, like a warrior. There is not a weapon in his arsenal which he did not put to use. I had to restore the honour of my pag he says, looking back.”
During my interviews, I always emphasized that I went to the Newton Legion on an invitation. In case, I was at fault, the listening Public is my Court. Any penalty awarded by it to me shall be accepted by me without hesitation. But, in case the fault lies with Mr Underwood Newton Legion President, the Public should deal with him appropriately. This policy helped me enormously to win the hearts of Canadians.
Receipt of life threatening letters and phone calls.
When I decided to take a firm stand against the Newton Legion, I full well knew that I, being from a ethnic visible minority, its repercussons from the vast Caucasian majority would be overwhelming against me and I shall have to be prepared for the worst, including damages to my properties, constant names calling and even threats to the lives of my family members as well as my own my life. Instead of having a disgraceful and discontented life, I chose to fight it out, come what may.
Life threatening anonymous letters through the mail. Some even made phone calls using abusive and filthy language against me to disturb my peace of mind. Considering the matter as serious, I reported it to the Police. The Police visited me, interviewed me, took my finger prints and also took away the anonymous letters I had received, for investigation and tackling the culprits. Besides, they monitored all incoming telephone calls on my residential phone for three months.
I purposely used my retiring Army rank during all my interviews. I wanted the World to know that among the five insulted Sikhs, there was a Commissioned Officer of high rank of Lieut Colonel and Officers holding that rank are entrusted with the lives of over 1000 of their countrymen by all Countries of the World in War. To insult an Officer of that high rank, therefore cannot be tolerated under any circumstances. This helped me immensely to win the favour of Canadians at large.
Racism in Canada.
Despite, Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms -1982 and British Columbia’s Human Right Act-1984, which prohibit discrimination on a number of grounds including race, colour, ancestry, place of birth, political beliefs, religion, and Anti-Racism Rallys held on March 21 every year throughout Canada, cases of racism continued to occur.
Ex-JC-3239 Naib Subedar Harbhajan Singh Signals alias Nirmal Singh was brutally assassinated by four white skinheads in a Gurdwara parking lot at 4 a.m. All the four accused were convicted and punished appropriately.
Ms Rina Virk 14, an Indo-Canadian teenaged girl was mercilessly drowned in a river by her Caucasian friends during an outing. A boy and a girl were convicted by the Court and appropriately given jail sentences.
During one of my usual morning walks, I was shouted upon by three teenage occupants of an oncoming car saying “Hey Paki Go back to your country“. I stopped, so did the car they were travelling in. When I asked them in a raised voice saying “Did you say something to me?” A boy and a girl came out of the car. Standing on the sidewalk about 10 yards away from me, they repeated exactly what they had said to me earlier without any hesitation.
My reply to their question was that Canada being my Country like theirs, I am not going anywhere”. One of them retorted that they were born in Canada. I replied that being the case, your elders must have immigrated to Canada because Canada is a country of immigrants. Arguments continued from both sides for a few minutes.
Apparently, having been disappointed with my replies, the girl got a fully grown German shepherd dog out of their car. Both the girl and boy repeatedly directed the dog to attack me. Surprisingly, the dog did not move even an inch towards me. I thought the dog had more wisdom than the boy and the girl. Because I had done no harm to the boy and the girl, the dog refused to obey its masters to attack me. I challenged the boy and the girl to come along with their dog because I have seen enough of blood during many Wars I have fought. I am therefore, not scared of the dog and the two of them.
Possibly being disappointed with the result of their discussion with me, the boy and the girl were about to get into their car. I went near them and challenged them by saying “ Please convey my message to your elders to buy tickets for them and all members of their families to go back to the countries of their origin. If they do that and leave Canada, I too shall leave along withy my family the following day. That day has yet not come, nor it ever would.
On another occasion, while on a morning walk, I was hit hard on my right shoulder with a quarter eaten raw apple. I was taken aback and stopped. Looking back, I followed a school boy who had thrown the apple at me. He fled into nearby bushes and could not be found. Because of my daily untoward occurrences in Canada, the Newton Legion case was nothing new to me.
On migrating to Canada, surprisingly I hardly found a Sikh wearing his turban. Even though the Sikhs have been claiming that they have been in Canada for over a Century, to avoid racism and names calling, vast majority of them had got their heads and beards shorn. What a shame? After the success of the Newton Legion episode, the situation completely reversed. Now one can find seas of turbans in the Lower Mainland.
Correspondence with dignitaries:
While the national media (television, newspapes and radios) gave the issue a constructive, logical and appropriate angle; I fought the battle, of my honour and turban on many other fronts. I wrote letters giving details of the incident and explaining the symbolic significance of the turban to all conceivable related authorities - all Members of Parliament of Canada, all organisations dealing with the religious discrimination, all Canadian authorities relevant in law-making and even The Queen giving my points of view. I also addressed the Dominion Command of the Royal Canadian Legion at Ottawa to keep them informed of the situation.
My letter to Queen Elizabeth II on December 09, 1993.
Fighting in the Second World War from August 1940 to December 1942 in North Africa, I had never imagined that when I retire from Army service as a Lieutenant Colonel, immigrate to Canada and am 73 years of age, I shall be insulted, humiliated and embarrassed in public as an invited guest and my religious feelings hurt by asking me to remove my turban and that too at the hands of fellow Veterans…. I could not tolerate the humiliation and felt completely distressed. It affected my health adversely. Consequently, I had to report the matter to my Doctor who placed me on medications. This is for your kind information.
Most respectfully, I request for forgiveness, in case this letter causes any inconvenience to Your Majesty.
(Similar letters were written by me to His Excellency he Governor General and Prime Minister of Canada, Premier of British Columbia and many other dignitaries)
The Queen's reply from Buckingham Palace, England:
I am commanded by The Queen to thank you for your letter of 9th December, 1993 about the wearing of turban in Canadian Legion buildings on Remembrance Day. I apologize for the delay.
Her Majesty has noted the contents of your letter and understands the concern which prompted you to write. I am directed to forward your letter to the Headquarters of the Royal Canadian Legion at Ottawa so that they may be aware of your approach to The Queen.
||Signed/ Simon Gimson
Governor General of Canada's reply:
While it is regrettable that you were not allowed to enter the Lounge on that solemn occasion, I am sure that the Royal Canadian Legion has amended its By-laws to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future. You can be assured that that the Governor General fully supports the Legion’s efforts to ensure its policies are non-discriminatory and he hopes that you will now be able to fully participate in Legion’s activities.
Please accept my best wishes for a speedy recovery and for good fortune - in the future.
||Sd/ Judith LaRocque
Dominion Command, the Royal Canadian Legion's reply:
Your recent letter to Her Majesty The Queen has been referred to the Dominion Command, Royal Canadian Legion for a reply.
You may not be aware that the Legion’s Domnion Executive Council held an emergency meeting and reviewed the requirement for a National policy governing the wearing of head-dress in Legion Branches in Canada. The result of that review is embodied in the document; which is enclosed for your information. The enclosed document lays down that Sikhs wearing turbans and Jews wearing Kipa shall be permitted in all 1720 Canadian Legions, in the future.
||Signed/- Greg Hogan,
Minister of National Revenue's letter:
As the Senior Minister for British Columbia, I wish to express my regret that you were denied entry into the Legion due to the head code restrictions of the Legion Branch. I believe that the publicity generated by this incident indicates that the action of the Branch was unacceptable to a great many Canadians.
Discussion of case in Canadian Parliament:
Late Ms Shoughnessy Cohen, M.P for Windsor-St Clair introduced the following motion in the House of Commons:
“Mr Speaker, this House, recognizing the fundamental Canadian Right of religious freedom and the courageous contributions of our Veterans of all faiths, urge the Royal Canadian Legion and its Constituent Branches to reconsider their recent decision, so that all our members will have access to their facilitities without having to remove religious head-coverings including Sikh turban and the Jewish Kipa”
Eight M. Ps from all the parties including the only turbaned Sikh M.P Gurbax Singh Malhi spoke on the motion. All M .Ps except two from Reform Party supported the motion.
Mr William Hart Speech Writer:
Mr William Hart was hired by Canada’s Federal Government for preparing a speech to tbe delivered by the Minister of Multiculturalism in Canada’s Parliament on the above mentioned motion. As I was in the headlines on the issue on a daily basis as well as in the electronic media, Mr Hart approached and asked for my help in the preparation of the speech. I agreed and the two of us had very lengthy telephonic conversations on the issue. He prepared the speech which was delivered by Sheila Finestone , the Multicultural Minister in the House of Commons. My name appeared six times in the speech.
Ms Sheila Finesstone, Minister of Multiculturalism's letter:
I extend my respect and gratitude for the determination you have demonstrated in challenging this injustice. It is through the strength and conviction of individual citizens that progress is achieved and the rights of all Canadians are fully safe-guarded. The country derives its identity and its greatness for the principles for which Veterans, like you and your father, fought in the World Wars and other Conflicts: democracy, justice and equal rights for all. You have my genuine admiration for the courage.
Royal Tea with Her Maajesty The Queen Elizabeth II:
Mr Frank Underwood President Newton Legion had stated that he denied admission to me and four other Sikh Veterans to his Legion Lounge because it was disrespectful for the Monarch and the War-dead if anyone entered in it with a covered head. My response in the case of war-dead was, “Why was I not asked to remove my turban, when I helped Canadians fighting along with me during Second World War performing Last Rites of fellow Canadians who died fighting along with me?”
Despite best efforts, I could not find a photograph of a turbaned Sikh Veteran with the Queen or the King. During pre-independence days, I was commissioned along with British Cadets. While under training, all Cadets, British and Indian used to say that the day we get an opportunity to meet the Queen or the King will be the best day of our life. As luck would have it, the Queen was to come to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia to open the Commonwealth Games. I immediately approached Mr Mike Harcourt, Premier of British Columbia and told him that I would like to meet the Queen in connection with Newton Legion case. He was very kind to specially invited me along with four other Sikh Veterans to a Royal Tea Party in Victoria on August 20, 1994.
Five of us Sikh Veterans dressed uniformally in dark bule blazers, grey pants, dark blue turbans and ties and donning our well-earned shinny medals, reached the place set for the Royal Tea Party. Attracted by our shining medals, the Queen, Prince Philips and Premier Harcourt came straight to us. The Queen was wearing a tangerine hat and a flowery Dress. She briefly chatted with each one of us.
50 years later, the wait is over. Col Jauhal meets The Queen
Following is the brief cxcerpt from the conversation between the Queen and me:
Queen: Are you the one who wrote to me a letter regarding some trouble about turban in a Canadian Legion?
I: Yes. Your Majesty. I wrote a letter to you. I am sorry, in case my letter caused any inconvenience to you.
Queen: No. You did the right thing. Has your turban problem since been resolved?
I: Yes. It was immediately settled as a result of your kind intervention. On receipt of my letter from you, the Royal Canadian Legion held an emergency meeting of its Executive Council and amended its by-laws permitting Sikhs with turban and Jews with kipa in all 1720 legions across Canada. I am now a member of Cloverdale Legion.
Queen: But, they should not have insulted you in the first place. You have many medals. They look very good. I am pleased to see them shining so brightly.
I: Many thanks. Five of my medals have your father’s photograph engraved on them.
Queen: Smiling, that is exciting and great.
I: I served in the 8th British Brmy under World famous Field Marsh Bernard Montgomery during the Sercond World War in North Africa.
Queen: I am pleased to hear that.
As I finished speaking to the Queen, I was bombarded with questions by a throng of media.They were curious to know as to what the Queen has talked to me about. I said that I am so excited to speak to the Queen, that words cannot express it. I admire her immensely. She really is great, friendly, gracious and kind. I feel proud and honoured. It was my 50 years old dream come true to meet her and I am very happy. This was really a historic day for me. There were numerous rolling and clicking of cameras by the media and a great many spectators.
Apology by Surrey City Council:
A motion of apology was tabled in Surrey City Council by Councillor Marvin Hunt. He said “ The Sikh turban was not an issue when the Commonwealth Forces fought in Hong Kong. It was not an issue when they fought in North Africa or Germany. It was not an issue when they were decorated by the Queen with Victoria Crosses for bravery and heroism in the middle of battles and all wars they fought.”
The motion was passed unanimously to issue a letter of apology to the Sikhs in Surrey as the incident took place in the City of Surrey.
British Columbia Legislature urges Legions to admit turbanned Sikhs:
A motion was put forward in the Provincial Legislature by the New Democratic Party (N D P) Government because of its deep and abiding concern about the exclusion of War Veterans from Newton Legion. The Government House leader Glen Clark while introducing the motion said. I rise to ask leave to move the following motion:
“Be it resolved that this House, mindful of the need to encourage tolerance of all religious faiths, congratulates all other branches of the Royal Canadian legion that allow entry to members of every religious faith, regardless of belief, or dress, and calls upon all other branches to follow this example. After a our-hour discussion, the motion was passed unanimously by the House.
Support by officials. legions, public at large and others:
There was an overwhelming show of support from hundreds of thousands of right-minded Canadians to me because I was fighting for the right cause and against the injustice and discrimination of the Newton Legion President Frank Underwood.
Due to lack of space, it is not possible for me to include quotations from hundreds of letters I received from a great many of my well wishers in connection with this episode, quotations from some selected personalities are however, as follows:
Mr Prem Kumar Budhwar indian High Commissioner to Canada:
The Sikhs do not wear turbans as a head-dress but as an important and fundamental symbol of their religious faith to remember their fallen Comrades, pay respect to their elders and Seniors and even pray to God.
These brave men, who have fought many battles with courage and distinction, to defend liberty and freedom for all over the World, should not themselves be denied the basic and cherished freedom of living by their fundamental religious code.
Mr Mike Harcourt Premier British CVolumbia:
The Royal Canadian Legion by-laws denying entry to orthodox Sikhs wearing turbans are archaic and should be changed. Her Majesty has made it very clear that she feels no discomfort whatsoever, when Sikhs wearing turbans appear before her at Buckingham Palace.
He felt saddened that brave Sikh soldiers who fought in the Second World War for freedom of people, who live in tolerance with each other were invited to the Remembrance Day ceremony and then turned way at the Lounge Door. He said the Dominion Command should apologize to the offended Veterans. The Sikhs in all 12 Municipal Forces of British Columbia have been allowed Sikhs to wear turbans and the R C M P permitted turbans in the Force in 1989.
Mr Sergio Marchi Federal Immigration Minister:
Sikhs fought alongside our men and women. I suppose no one asked them to check their turbans at the Door. So, I hope common sense would prevail.
Mr Hal Joffe National Chair Canadian Jewish Congress:
Clearly to deny entry to Sikh Veterans, who wanted to pay tribute to our war-dead, while also honouring their mandatory strictures of their religious code, is outrageous and discriminatory.
Command of the Royal Canadioan Legion to take action to esure that the Newton Legion`s anti-turban rule is abolished. Any by-law or regulation demanding removal of religious garb runs contrary to the principles of religious freedom.
Mr David Collenette Canadia Defence Minister:
I have vowed to boycott any Legion Lounge in Canada that refuses admittance to Sikhs and Jews wearing religious head-coverings.
Ms Mary Ann Burdett President Pacific Command Royal Canadia Legion:
She issued what is considered to be an ultimatum on behalf of the Legion`s National Executive - “either change the anti-turban policy or face having the Charter revoked.”
Major (Retd) M F Thurgood:
All Canadians who served in the Armed Forces during World War II should be embarrassed by the conduct of the Newton Legion and its President by their treatment of our Comrades-in-arms from India. I apologize to the five Sikh Veterans and their Countrymen who marched with me in British 8th Army.
I was appalled by the treatment Sikh Veterans received when they attempted to enter the Newton Legion after participating in the Remembrance Day Parade. This has nothing to do with Legion’s By-laws and everything to do with blatant Racism.
Reverend jim Manly:
I was saddened and disgusted to hear that the officials of Newton Legion had denied entry to their Lounge to a number of Sikhs because they were wearing their traditional turbans. Such bigoted action denies Canada`s cultural diversity and insults the memoray of the very people, the Legion claims. Newton Legion Officials owe an apology not only to the Sikh Community, but to all Canadians who honour the sacrifices of our war-dead, believing it gave us one more chance to build a decent Society.
Mr Greg Hogan Dominion Command Royal Canadian Legion:
We have repeatedly stressed to members for being flexible and using common sense, especially when you invite people to your place. If the Archbishop of Vancouver were to visit the Newton Legion in his Ceremonial Garb, he would certainly be allowed to keep his Mirte on.
Mr David Spill of Port Moodi on phone:
Colonel Jauhal: I am a member of Port Moody Legion. Get ready and I am coming to pick you up. We shall go to our Legion, have a glass of beer and you fill a form for membership which I shall sponsor. You get Port Moody Legion Membership Card and then go to the Newton Legion. Let me see who can stop you?”
Mr Andy Mulcany:
The recent barring of Sikh Veterans from Newton Legion does not represent those who gave their lives trying to halt the Holocaust. They would, I am sure, be angered if they know their Sikh Comrades have been denied entry to an establishment that supposedly represent them.
Reporter M Stephen Hume:
Narrating the names of Sikhs who won Victoria Crosses, he wrote : They were good enough for the Victoria Crosses - Not good enough to earn a seat among the Heroes of Newton Legion”.
Reporter Mr Peter Johnson:
On a 100 hectare site of Wimy, France, stands a monument to Canadians. The site that many historiaans claim to be the very place that Canada became a nation - on April 9, 1917.
Providing Covering Fire that cold Easter morning were turbaned Sikhs from Lahore Heavy Field Artillery. This fact alone should make the Newton Legion President and Members hide their faces in shame, but doesn’t. These guys not only managed to insult the Glorious Dead of the Great War and the living Veterans of the Sikh Community, they also managed to insult The Queen three times in one day.
Mr Moe sihota Multicultiuralism Minister British Columbia:
Lashing out at the intolerance shown by the Newton Legion President after he refused entry to five turban-wearing Sikh Veterans on Remembrance Day, Sihota said, “it hurts me that people are denied access to a Legion because of turbans.”
Mr J. D Dickson Gibson Legionnaire:
As a World War Veteran, and a long-time Member and Executive of the Royal Canadian Legion, I would like to extend to Colonel Jauhal, my most sincere apologies for the disgraceful treatment he received from Newton Legion. It was my privilege and honour to serve with the Sikhs both during War and post-War. They always conducted themselves with utmost bravery and panache, earning the respect of those with whom they served. I would be proud to accompany Colonel Jauhal to our Legion. What a shame a few Red Necks have to tarnish the reputation of an honourable Institution on Remembrance Day.
Wing Commander (Retd) B Burnett:
As a Veteran of World War II, I am totally shocked that - high respected Sikh War Veterans have been rejected admission into the Newton Legion Lounge, because they wanted to be faithful to their religion, by wearing turbans. The Canadian Charter Of Rights and Freedom gives to everyone in Canada, among other things, the freedom of conscience and religion.
Mr Herb Dhaliwal Federal Minister:
Discrimination based on religion is wrong and contrary to the fundamentals of Canadian Society.
Mr Fred Hannington Secretary Dominion Command Royal Canadian Legion:
We have little sympathy for financially beleaguered Newton Legion as it faces a pending Human Rights complaint from Colonel Jauhal. We do not feel particularly sorry for them. We denounced the headgear ban already.
We are supporting Jauhal's complaint. The more power to him.
Dominion Command the Royal Canadian Legion's Apology:
The Dominion Command of the Royal Canadian legion issued a formal apology to me and four other Sikh Veterans and condemned the action of Newton Legion President. Mr Frank Underwood.
The statement by the Dominion Command acknowledged that dress code is determined by the individual Legion Branches, but that with the rare exceptions those rules are applied with “commonsense“
Mr Frank Underwood President Newton Legion Apolgy:
In a dramatic turnabout, Mr Frank Underwood went on C T V to apologize unconditionally to five of us World War Veterans Sikhs who were denied entry to the Legion because we refused to remove our turbans.
Underwood further said that he was apologizing to the Sikh Veterans on behalf of the Executive Committee of his Legion.
Sikg War Veterans Honoured by numerous organizations:
On successful completion of Newton Legion episode, five of us affected Veterans were invited and honoured by a number of Canadian and Indo-Canadian organisations. They commended me for tactful and magnificent handling of the Media. Official of some Gur dwaras had asked me if funds should be raised to fight the case in question. My response in each case was in the negative. Media helped me enormously. I therefore, used it to the maximum as my main weapon and free of cost to spearhead the battle.
My Open letter to the Media:
I issued the following open letter to the Media on the successful completion of the case:-
I would like to thank all those who have supported me and other Sikh Veterans in connection with the events which occurred at the Newtion Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion on 1993 Remembrance Day. Without your support:-
a) We would not have received the apology from Mr Frank Underwood, President of Newton Legion on the C.T.V.
b) We would not have received an unconditional apology from the Dominion Command of the Royal Canadian Legion.
c) The Dominion Command of the Royal Canadian Legion would not have amended its By-laws to treat the head-dress of the Sikhs and Jews faiths as religious, permitting the Sikh Veterans wearing their turban admission into all areas of their 1720 Branches across Canada.
I would especially like to thank Penny Priddy who stood with us throughout this ordeal. I would also like to thank other Politicians, hundreds of thousands of Canadians, majority of Newton Legion Members and above all the Media which played a pivotal role in support of my fight.
I cannot find words to express my gratitude and sincere thanks to Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II for Her immediate intervention in the case on receipt of my personal letter. I also thank the people who worked with me tirelessly to get the discriminatory By-laws changed by the Dominion Command, the Royal Canadian Legion, the highest authority of Legions in Canada.
Through this experience, I have learnt that the vast majority of Canadians are wonderful and tolerant people.
Madam Donna Krieger President Crescent Beech Legion Extends Invitation:
As reported in newsprint, Mr Reg Selvage and several other members of defunct Newton Legion left their Legion in disgust over the incident in which I was publicly insulted as an invited guest sixteen years ago and joined the Crescent Beach Legion. They decided to invite me to the Crescent Beach Legion to show me that they still honour me and that they show me the respect I deserve.
I was reluctant to accept the invitation given my shabby treatment back in 1993. But when Madam Donna Krieger, President of Crescent Beach Legion called me and said that she would be personally honoured with my presence, I accepted her invitation.
Photo Courtesy: The Now Newspaper
OVERCOME… Colonel Jauhal is overcome with emotions during the Remembrance Day Service at the Crescent Beach Legion-Nov 11, 2001. Cpl Vincent Haitwaite (left) of the 2812 Seaforth Highlanders acted as a Sentry for the Ceremony
During the ceremony, I was provided a seat at the Podium along with the Legion President. Next to my chair was a Corporal standing in his ceremonial uniform, possibly for my protection. I had later learnt that Madam Krieger the Legion President had cautioned all members of her Legion to behave with me properly and give me an utmost respect during the Remembrance Day ceremonies.
Photo Courtesy: The Now Newspaper
Colonel Pritam Singh Jauhal lays a wreath on behalf of the Indian Corps of Signals.
I was asked by President Madam Krieger to address the Gathering. I spoke about my experiences during the Second World War fought to protect the Commonwealth and maintain the democracy in which different people could live together and enjoy freedom in peace. I also read ‘A Soldier’s Prayer‘. My very presence on the occasion and the address I delivered sparked a thunderous standing ovation by those I attendance. On being asked by Madam Krieger, the Legion President to lay a wreath, I had the proud privilege of laying the wreath on behalf the ‘Indian Corps of Signals’ at the Legion Cenotaph along with other dignitaries.
The manner in which I was treated during the celebrations of the Remembrance Day by Madam Donna Krieger, the President and Members of the Crescent Beach Legion was indeed remarkable and praiseworthy. I felt highly honoured and extremely pleased with everything done for me.
When I made a decision to take stand against the injustice and discrimination of the Newton Legion in Surrey, I full well knew that it would not a bed of roses for me to fight the case single-handedly against vast Caucasian majority in Canada and that I would have to face a great many difficulties. But after considering the pros and cons of the type of miserable life I was heading for, I decided to fight it out irrespective of the consequences.
Words cannot express my gratitude and sincere thanks to Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II, who on receipt of my letter, understanding the concern which prompted me to write, immediately intervened by sending it to the Dominion Command of the Royal Canadian Legion for necessary action and a direct reply to me. As a result, the Dominion Command changed the dress code of all 1720 Legions across Canada, permitting turban wearing Sikhs in them.
The Queen also snubbed the racist Legionnaires, when during a Royal Tea Party hosted by Mike Harcourt Premier British Columbia, she sipped tea and chatted with me and other four Sikh Veterans with turbans, as numerous cameras kept rolling. What had Mr Frank Underwood, Newton Legion President and his racist cronies to say about it?
When Mr Frank Underwood apologized to me and other four Sikh Veterans on CTV, I was delighted and surprised as to how the attitude of the racists in Canada changed overnight towards me. The very racist Caucasians Canadians who repeatedly shouted at me wearing my turban during my daily walks by saying “Hey Paki or Hindu Go back to your Country” changed their tunes and started addressing me as “Excuse me celebrity. I saw you on television last night. You are doing a wonderful work. Keep it up”. For me, it was indeed a very satisfying experience.
When Mr Frank Underwood apologized, I got my respect back. Not only that, my other two demands of changing the dress code of Newton Legion, thereby permitting Sikhs Veterans wearing turbans in the Legion Lounge and also permitting them with their turbans in all 1720 Legions across Canada, were met.
What did Mr Frank Underwood gain by denying admittance to invited turbaned Veteran Sikhs to his Legion Lounge on Remembrance Day in 1993? He was denounced by majority of members of his own Legion, the Pacific Command and Dominion Command of the Royal Canadian Legion, all three levels of Canadian Governments, Canadian Politicians, the Media and above all, the Canadians people at large. Undoubtedly, he found himself in the situation of his own making. Consequently, he was fired and his Legion Branch disbanded for good.
I have no doubt in my mind that the racist Canadian Legionnaires did learn a good lesson from this episode. Consequently, they will not even dream of insulting an invited guest of any faith in the future and they will treat him with utmost respect, decency and dignity.
Finally, the success I was able to achieve in this most difficult ordeal was only made possible with full cooperation and support I received from one and all in Canada. I shall never forget it during the rest of my life. I was exceedingly pleased with it and I consider myself highly honoured and privileged to have the opportunity to spearhead and lead this most undesirable and difficult case to a successful conclusion.