100th anniversary of Komagata Maru recognized in Vancouver

A number of events are taking place in the Lower Mainland Friday to mark the 100th anniversary of the Komagata Maru’s ill-fated arrival in Vancouver.

The Komagata Maru, a Japanese steamship, arrived in Burrard Inlet on May 23, 1914, carrying 376 British subjects from India, mainly Sikhs. Officials only allowed a small handful to leave the ship, forcing the rest to stay on board.

Two months later, the ship returned to India. When it arrived, British India police in Calcutta shot 19 of the passengers. The event has since been remembered as an example of Canada’s discriminatory immigration policies in the early 19th century.

From the archives:  Watch Global BC’s in-depth original feature on the history of the Komagata Maru 

In downtown Vancouver, a march will take place from the SFU Harbour Centre to Harbour Green Park. In Surrey, a vigil is taking place at Holland Park at 7 p.m., with federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair attending.

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Canada Post unveiled a new stamp earlier this month to mark the anniversary. In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered an apology for the Komagata Maru, and the B.C. legislature passed a motion apologizing on behalf of the province the same year.

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Premier Christy Clark released a statement, which reads in part: “This act of racism is an important reminder to us, and to future generations: we must value, respect and welcome all immigrants who seek to build their lives here in B.C. They enrich our communities and culture, and strengthen our economy. They make our province better.

“Thankfully, attitudes have changed. For the past 100 years, South Asian immigrants have made invaluable contributions to British Columbia.

“We have learned a lot over the last century. But we must never forget this important lesson.”

– With files from Canadian Press

The 100th anniversary of the Komagatu Maru incident in 1914. Brian Coxford

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