SURREY — Pritam Singh Jauhal, a war veteran at the centre of a turban-banning storm at Newton Legion, has died. He was 95.
Jauhal, a Sikh, wore a turban into battle during several wars, including the Second World War as part of 8th British Army actions in North Africa.
He was considered one of the most celebrated and respected figures in the Sikh community in Canada, said Surrey-based broadcaster Bhupinder Hundal.
“He was an individual who was proud to stand up and be that voice for equality and justice,” Hundal told the Now on Tuesday.
In 1993, following a Remembrance Day ceremony, Jauhal and other turban-wearing Sikh veterans were barred from entering Newton Legion due to rules regarding the wearing of “headgear” inside the hall.
The organization eventually changed its policy, following pressure from human rights-minded Canadians.
“That incident in 1993 really galvanized the community,” Hundal said.
“He was faced with a situation that was certainly less than ideal,” Hundal added, “but the manner and the drive and determination that he had to make it right is why he’s such an inspiration to so many people.”
Jauhal published a memoir called “A Soldier Remembers” in 2013, in collaboration with the Centre for Indo-Canadian Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley.
“I am Commanding Officer of a Canadian Regiment today because of the legacy and sacrifice of (Jauhal) and other Sikh veterans before him,” wrote Harjit Singh Sajjan, now Canada’s Minister of National Defence, in the foreword for the book.
“We both know that there is no greater honour than to serve the nation you call home.”
Jauhal lived in Surrey for many years, and frequently attended Remembrance Day ceremonies at the cenotaph in Cloverdale.
Hundal knew Jauhal in his role as news director for OMNI TV.
“The last time I saw him was last Remembrance Day in Cloverdale, and I kind of made a point of getting a photo with him,” Hundal recalled. “I remember getting that photo and tweeting it out and also encouraging people to read his memoir, so people could learn more about who he was.
Jauhal stressed the importance of recognizing sacrifices made by war veterans, Hundal said.
“His big thing was to encourage the South Asian community to be greater participants in Remembrance Day ceremonies. That was very important to him.”
A funeral service for Jauhal will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 3 at Valley View Funeral Home & Cemetery (14644 72nd Ave., Surrey), followed at 3:30 p.m. by a prayer service at Canadian Singh Sabha Gurdwara (8115 132nd St., Surrey).