Sikh News School Named After Wrestler Tiger Jeet Singh

Jan 7, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada

School named after wrestler
Tiger Jeet Singh

March 04, 2010
Kristin Rushowy - the Toronto Star

No smackdowns allowed at this school — even though it is named after a professional wrestler.

Tiger Jeet Singh Public School got the stamp of approval from Halton trustees as the choice for a new elementary set to open in September, beating out three other choices.

While the decision has a few locals ready to rumble — they believe it’s inappropriate to honour someone involved in a violent sport — the board says Singh’s philanthropy and humanitarian work won them over.

"I feel great and I'm so excited because we are so much involved with children," said Tiger Jeet Singh, 65, a longtime Milton resident. "It’s a good opportunity to get involved directly with children; my main (message) will be good health and studying well."

Area Trustee Donna Danielli said the almost-retired wrestler has been a goodwill ambassador for Milton since the 1980s and was recently named to its Hall of Fame. Milton’s mayor even supported naming a school after him.

"He definitely makes a difference in the community and I believe that he will be a very positive role model and mentor at that school — he plans to be very involved," promoting the importance of education as well as anti-drug and anti-gang messages, Danielli said.

She dismissed concerns about his life as a wrestler, for which he was known to put a sword in between his teeth or "attack" audience members.

"That’s a the same way an actor" takes on a role, she said.

Tiger Jeet Singh, who was born Jagjit Singh Hans in India and came to Canada at age 17 with no money, is now a millionaire, living on a sprawling Milton property with his wife, their three sons and families. He began wrestling here almost 40 years ago, but found big fame in Asia.

He’s donated $100,000 towards a Milton hospital, $25,000 to Milton’s Historical Society as well as helped with local toy drives. He also does a lot of philanthropic work in his homeland with son Tiger Jeet Singh Jr., a WWE wrestler known as Tiger Ali Singh.

The Halton board solicited suggestions for the new school through libraries, schools and on its website, and then whittled those down to a shortlist of four for trustees to vote on: Coates Crossing, Robert McCaw (former principal and well-known photographer), John Deacon (former principal and mayor), or Tiger Jeet Singh.

As news got out about the decision, reaction was mixed; comments on a Milton discussion board said, "! They’ve finally cracked," and "I have nothing against professional wrestlers, but it’s hardly appropriate."

Another says: "I can see why one wouldn't consider wrestling in the same league as other sports, but then again some people consider hockey to be violent and dangerous too ... At the end of the day he's an athlete from Milton (even if I don't agree with his choice of sports)."

One local resident, Sean Powell, has started a Facebook group "Say No to Tiger Jeet Singh Public School."

"We want to be very clear — this group is not about discrediting the man, or his image. Our mission is to rename the school for the neighbourhood in which it sits, Coates Crossing Elementary School," it says.

In an interview, Powell, a father, said trustees should have put the four choices out for public discussion before voting.

"I just want the board to be aware that there are a lot of people who may not be happy with it, and all I’m doing is letting them know that people aren’t crazy that a school is associated with a sport that can be violent."

Tiger Jeet Singh Public School is under construction and located on Yates Dr., near Derry Rd. W. and Thompson Rd. S.

Trustee Danielli noted in an online posting that the number of visible minorities has risen 780 per cent in Milton in recent years, and "all the data shows that students are more engaged in their learning when they see themselves reflected in the culture and community of their school."

Tiger Jeet Singh Jr. said he and his dad will be involved at the new school, and will also implement Tiger-fit, their healthy living/fitness promotion program that costs schools nothing but helps them raise funds.

His own children attend Milton public schools, and he coaches the boys’ basketball team at his son’s.

"It is such an honour for me," said Tiger Jeet Singh, adding if anyone is concerned about his wrestling "that’s my job. What I am doing in the ring, that’s part of my job, that’s not the real Tiger Jeet Singh. Outside, I am a family man" who is devoted to the community.