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

Saanich, Oak Bay seek to expand supply of affordable housing

Mayor Fred Haynes has asked staff to prepare grant application

Victoria Hospice named in top 100 Canadian charities list

Society honoured for transparency of donated funds

Victoria fundraiser looking for menstrual products

The Period Posse is running a 10-day campaign to help people who can’t afford pricey necessities

Trapped Vancouver Island crash survivor celebrates second chance at life

“Life is good now. It’s good to be alive.”

Oak Bay’s Spandads help give new life to used bikes

Local cycling club is donating 100 bikes worldwide to those in need

VIDEO: Ballet Victoria’s take on the The Nutcracker tours Vancouver Island and the Mainland

Performances in Revelstoke, Coquitlam, Chilliwack and Victoria

POLL: Are you dreaming of a white Christmas?

The rain Vancouver Island is famous for is coming down in buckets,… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Dec. 11, 2018

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

Tourism minister postpones trip to China amid tensions between two countries

Tourism Minister Melanie Joly’s office says Canada and China have mutually agreed to postpone a closing ceremony next week.

Police across Canada probe bomb threats as U.S. authorities dismiss ‘hoax’

A police spokesman said the emails were the same as those received elsewhere in North America

France shooter killed Thursday during police operation

7 more being held by police in shooting investigation

Dog killed by gunshot north of Courtenay – Crime Stoppers

Police seeking help from public after dog found dead near mouth of Oyster River on Nov. 27

Shootout loss for Canada West against Czech Republic

Team Canada West now looking forward to semifinal game

Ex-Trump lawyer: Hush money paid over election concerns

Michael Cohen was sentenced Wednesday to three years in federal prison

Most Read