New commemorative street signs in Surrey will honour the victims of the 1914 Komagata Maru incident.
The city unveiled the new signs Wednesday (July 31) that are to be installed on 75A Avenue between 120th Street and 121A Street.
“Today, council put into action what we approved a little over three weeks ago to name a Surrey street to remember the victims of the Komagata Maru incident,” said Mayor Doug McCallum at the unveiling.
“Komagata Maru Way is proof that the citizens of Surrey will not forget the injustices of the past and that we are a city that welcomes and embraces people from all over the world.”
Surrey council voted in favour of installing the commemorative street name signs during its July 8 meeting.
As well, city council voted in favour of other staff recommendations – identified by the Surrey Heritage Advisory Commission during its May meeting – which called for a research project on South Asians in Surrey, a heritage storyboard and for the city continue to offer programming that “shares the culture, history and contributions of South Asian residents in Surrey.”
Raj Toor, whose grandfather came to Canada on the Komagata Maru, along with the Descendants of the Komagata Maru Society, had been pushing for the City of Surrey to rename a street in honour of the passengers.
Toor previously told the Now-Leader he thought Surrey would be a good fit to memorialize the passengers because the city has such a large South Asian community.
Toor was part of the unveiling on Wednesday and he said while the past can’t be undone, people can now move forward and “leave a legacy for the future generation by educating them about the past.”
“Places like this Komagata Maru Way and storyboard in Nicholson Park will educate the entire community and make us all richer in awareness of how special a place Canada is to have so many different ethnic communities living together. And with this knowledge we can build a better world free from racism.”
The research project, according to a city report, would include hiring a researcher to “provide an in-depth research service to produce a legacy document, which thoroughly documents South Asian history in Surrey” and will “fill a significant gap in the existing historical record.”
The heritage storyboard would provide an overview of the Komagata Maru incident and the reverberations the event has for many Surrey residents today. It would be installed at R.A. Nicholson Park, which is just east of an existing Komagata Maru mural.
The report says the interpretive panel would be installed following the completion of the research project.
In 1914, the Komagata Maru arrived in Vancouver from Hong Kong, carrying 376 passengers. Most of the passengers were immigrants from the Punjab region in what was then British India.
The hundreds of passengers were not allowed on shore.
For two months, they remained in the waters outside of Vancouver before being forced to return to India.
But upon their return, some of the passengers were shot and killed “in an encounter with British Indian police,” according to the canadianencyclopedia.ca.