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100 years after Komagata Maru: Learning from Canada’s past

Tim Uppal, Minister of State for Multiculturalism, highlighted a number of initiatives by Canada to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Komagata Maru at an event held at Simon Fraser University (SFU).

The Komagata Maru arrived in Vancouver harbour in 1914 carrying 376 passengers of Indian descent, most of whom were not allowed to land. 

This was because the ship did not make a direct journey to Canada, as prescribed by Canada’s Continuous Journeys clause, which was in place at the time. 

After two months under difficult conditions, the ship and most of its passengers were forced to return to India where, in a subsequent clash with British soldiers, 19 passengers died.

Canada is undertaking a number of initiatives to remember this tragic event.

Specifically, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has:
• Designed and distributed an educational poster to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Komagata Maru incident;
• Participated in the unveiling of Canada Post’s Komagata Maru stamp at the Asian Heritage Month launch reception; and
• Created a web page on CIC’s web site to provide information on the tragedy and Canada’s role.

At the event held at SFU’s Vancouver campus,  Uppal was joined by community partners from Surrey and Vancouver to discuss the various Komagata Maru projects that have been developed to commemorate the anniversary.

In May 2008, Canada passed a unanimous motion in the House of Commons, recognizing the Komagata Maru incident and apologizing to those who were directly affected. 

On August 3, 2008, Prime Minister Harper conveyed that apology to the Indo-Canadian community in Surrey, BC.

CIC has provided funding, through the Community Historical Recognition Program (CHRP), toward a number of projects that recognize and raise awareness of the Komagata Maru.

For example, the Khalsa Diwan Society received a total of  $1.4 million for the development of two projects, a monument and a museum which commemorate the Komagata Maru incident.

The CHRP was announced in 2006 and launched in 2008, closing successfully in March 2013. 

Through the CHRP, $13.5 million was made available to support 68 community projects.

“Canada is committed to recognizing the experience of the Indo-Canadian community and other communities affected by immigration restrictions in Canada’s past,” said  Uppal. 

“We commemorate the Komagata Maru incident, acknowledging a dark moment in our shared history, to help ensure that tragedies like this one never happen again.”

Posted: Jul 29, 2014

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