On July 23

COLUMN: Remembering the Komagata Maru incident

We must continue to scrutinize government policies on immigration and citizenship to ensure that Canada remains a welcoming country.

It was on July 23, 1914 – a 100 years ago from yesterday – that the Komagata Maru ship was forced to leave Vancouver’s harbour. It had to return to India, a British colony at that time, with 355 passengers whose dreams of beginning a life in Canada were cut short.

On May 23, 1914, the ship had arrived at Burrard Inlet with 376 Indian passengers of various faiths on board. It had departed from Hong Kong and had stopped at Shanghai and Yokohama.

The 1908 Continuous Passage Act required that immigrants travel to Canada without stopping at any point on the way. It stated that: “immigrants may be prohibited from landing or coming into Canada unless they come from the country of their birth, or citizenship, by a continuous journey and on through tickets purchased before leaving the country of their birth, or citizenship.”  This “continuous journey” requirement was clearly a discriminatory law created with the intention of preventing immigrants from places like India from coming to Canada, even though both countries were part of the British Empire.  Additionally, it was the continuation of policies aimed at restricting rights, as legislation was passed in 1907 that prevented voting rights for South Asians and entry into politics and certain jobs.

Japreet LehalA number of further obstacles prevented the passengers from entering Canada and even a legal challenge was not successful. Despite the efforts of the passengers and a committee formed to help them, the ship was turned back.

In September, the ship reached Budge-Budge, India, at which point, 19 passengers were killed by officers.

This tragic and sad moment in Canada’s history violated fundamental human rights. In 2008, a formal apology was issued by the government of British Columbia, and the prime minister issued an apology at an event in Bear Creek Park.

Remembering the Komagata Maru incident underscores a further point of importance: the need to explore and discuss historical issues so that similar incidents are not repeated in the future.

As we mark the centennial of this incident this year, it is important that we not only reflect on historical wrongs such as the Komagata Maru incident, Chinese head tax, and Japanese internment camps on anniversaries and centennials, but also on a regular basis.

Ultimately, the best way to learn from the past is to maintain our continued emphasis as Canadians on multiculturalism and a love for equality and tolerance. Canada’s progress in the past decades and our focus on embracing diversity has allowed us to build understanding and knowledge between people of different faiths, cultures, and backgrounds.

At the same time, we should ensure that government policies regarding immigration and citizenship, now and in the future, are closely scrutinized on a constant basis so we can ensure that Canada remains a welcoming country.

It is also important to note that the erosion of citizenship and immigration policies may not occur in the same overt fashion as occurred in 1914. Hence, close scrutiny as well as a focus on the intent behind policies is vital.

Japreet Lehal is a student at Simon Fraser University. He writes regularly for The Leader.


Surrey North Delta Leader

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey school district student enrolment down from projections

‘That’s not something I can say in my time in Surrey, I have ever said at the board table’: superintendent

Fraser Health relocates Surrey COVID-19 testing centre

New location will triple testing capacity: Dr. Victoria Lee

White Rock acupuncturist suspended for ‘scare tactics, excessive fees’

30-day suspension for Jun Hua (Davy) Hua issued Aug. 18

Latimer Road the latest Surrey school to report COVID-19 exposure

Fraser Health has created a new webpage listing COVID-19 cases in schools

Mother-daughter charged in 2017 torched-SUV killing in South Surrey now allowed contact

Judge grants Manjit Kaur Deo permission to connect with Inderdeep Kaur Deo through a lawyer

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

70-year-old punched in the head in dispute over disability parking space in Nanaimo

Senior’s turban knocked off in incident at mall parking lot

Machine pistol among 14 firearms seized from Alaska man at B.C. border crossing

Corey Scott Kettering faces charges of smuggling and prohibited firearm possession

Most Read