Sabba Sal

Saanich event remembers the Komagata Maru, fight for equality

Century of progress to be celebrated at MLA Lana Popham's constituency office July 23

A devoted group of Saanich residents are celebrating a century of progress in the fight against racism by recognizing a dark day in Canada’s history.

Today marks 100 years since the Komagata Maru left the B.C. coast carrying 376 Punjabi immigrants after the Canadian government officially refused their request for asylum.

“We’ve come a long way in 100 years,” said Sabba Sal, who organized an exhibition at Saanich Commonwealth Place in May to mark the 100th anniversary of the Komagata Maru’s arrival.

It took another two months before the Sikh, Muslim and Hindu occupants were told to turn around and go home, a dismissal that sparked international controversy and eventual reform of Canadian immigration policy.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized for the incident during a 2008 visit to Surrey, but a formal apology in the House of Commons has not yet materialized.

“Back in 1914, they introduced a bill to basically exclude all Asians from entering Canada,” Sal said. “We’ve never had a formal apology for that, although the Komagata Maru Heritage Foundation is leading that charge and it looks good.”

Sal and his colleagues at the India Canada Cultural Association of Victoria will join Saanich South MLA Lana Popham at her office tomorrow night to commemorate the event, which has the unfortunate distinction of being the first migrant-carrying ship to be turned away from Canadian shores.

Popham will host representatives not only from the local Sikh community, but also Saanich and Victoria police departments and Songhees and Esquimalt Nations. The event is also open to the public.

“It’s a way of putting that dark moment behind us and celebrating how far we’ve come,” Popham said. “We’ll be serving Indian food and chai in the outdoor garden and displaying photographs and artifacts from Komagata Maru throughout the office.”

Sal said the event was undoubtedly spurred on by racism, but Canada has since reformed many policies, and with them, people’s attitudes over the past century.

“The challenge now is to work the next 100 years to include everyone, no matter their colour, language or country,” he said. “We shouldn’t be stuck in the past, we should acknowledge it and then work to make sure no one is excluded and everyone is treated equally.”

From Expulsion to Embrace: Komagata Maru 100 years later, 1914 – 2014, takes place tonight at Popham’s constituency office, 4085 Quadra St., from 6 to 8 p.m.

Read more about the history of the Komagata Maru incident through an interactive online exhibition hosted by Simon Fraser University at komagatamarujourney.ca.

editor@saanichnews.com

 

 

Just Posted

Resident charged $48,350 fine for poisoning large Oak Bay tree

The district says this amount represents the appraised value of the tree

BC Ferries not as full as reported due to ability to book consecutive sailings

Multiple reservation booking strategy artificially inflates BC Ferries “current conditions”

Island Health encourages sexual assault survivors to #TrustYourself

New social media campaign urges survivors of sexual assault to seek medical care

Mayor-elect Fred Haynes wants to study idea of bringing film studio, new hockey arena to Saanich

Haynes also calls on council to help turn private surplus land into public park

‘She’s charging. Oh God’: Mama grizzly runs at B.C. man armed with shotgun

People online were quick to question – and defend – a man’s decision to shoot a grizzly bear charging him on a Bella Coola front yard

Canada announces $20M fund for women entrepreneurs

New federal program will provide up to $100,000 for female business owners to grow their operations

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Oct. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Vancouver Island man claims falling ice smashed his truck windshield

Man discovered volleyball-sized chunk ice on his truck Saturday, near Nanaimo, B.C.

B.C. veteran combats PTSD in the ring and on the farm

Cam Tetrault is a valuable contributor at Quesnel’s Two Rivers Boxing Club

Fast ferries from B.C. spotted in Egypt

Controversial aluminum BC Ferries vessels ’big white elephants covered in dust,’ eyewitness says

Canadian troops, families take shelter in hotel after Florida hurricane

Most of the Canadians were evacuated from the military base before Hurricane Michael

B.C. jury trial hears police-sting audio of man accused of killing girl, 12

Garry Handlen has pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder of Monica Jack on May 6, 1978.

5 tips to keep trick-or-treaters safe this Halloween

BC Children’s Hospital has a few suggestions to keep Oct. 31 fun

Most Read