100-year-old Komagata Maru exclusion to be remembered at Coal Harbour memorial

Published: May 22, 2014

Raj Toor (in blue turban) and his brother Jaswinder Toor in Surrey in June 2013. The pair’s grandfather was on the Komagata Maru, a ship carrying Sikh immigrants to BC that was denied landing rights in 1914. Jason Payne/ PNG

LARISSA CAHUTE  
VANCOUVER DESI

It was 100 years ago Friday that Jaswinder Singh Toor’s grandfather arrived in Vancouver with his sights on a better education.

He convinced his Punjabi parents that opportunity awaited him in Canada and made the long journey aboard the S.S. Komagata Maru.

But when he arrived in Burrard Inlet on May 23, 1914, the ship’s 376 passengers were barred from entering Canada under exclusionary laws.

They were docked for two months until the ship was escorted out of Canadian waters and sent back to India, where a riot ensued. At least 20 men were killed by British forces and many others jailed, including Toor’s grandfather, who vowed to never return to Canada because of the “bitter memories.”

“He convinced (his parents to let him leave) and he only got a lesson in racism,” said Toor, a member of the Descendants of the Komagata Maru Society.

MORE ON THE KOMAGATA MARU

On Friday, Toor will mark the incident’s centennial year at a ceremony at the Coal Harbour memorial, as a way “to remember those passengers who … opened the doors for the South Asian community.”

And while the community has “excelled in every field” — many becoming doctors, lawyers, businessmen, farmers, politicians — they still haven’t been able to move forward from the “dark chapter” 100 years ago, as they still await an official apology from the Canadian government.

Although Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized in 2008 in Surrey’s Bear Creek Park, the community wants one in the House of Commons, “in the same manner it was given to the Chinese community, the Japanese community, the Native community,” said Toor.

“All we want is a more dignified and respectful apology in the House of Commons,” he said.

He’d also like to see the Komagata Maru story better taught in schools across Canada.

“If our children are well-educated they understand the history … they will not make these mistakes again,” he said. “My grandfather said you can beat racism by educating the society.”

The 100th anniversary has also served as a reminder for what more needs to be done with regards to racism and immigration policy in Canada.

According to Burnaby author Harsha Walia, although immigration laws have progressed, “history is repeating itself” in the context of the migrant and temporary foreign worker controversy.

The crowded deck of the Komagata Maru in 1914 (Leonard Frank photo, Vancouver Public Library)

“It’s the same kind of language that we saw with the Komagata Maru,” said Walia. “All of a sudden when there’s a panic about Canadian jobs in the economy then these people and bodies become disposable and deportable.

“Many South Asian migrants continue to be excluded, continue to face hostility, face detention, exploitation, face jail — all the similar conditions that the centennial is marking.”

Walia hopes Friday’s commemorations will provide lessons for the future, as “it would be a massive tragedy if 100 years from now we were making apologies for the temporary foreign worker program.”

The ceremony goes at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, followed by a candlelight vigil in Surrey’s Holland Park at 7 p.m.

Commemorative exhibits are also running through the summer at the Surrey Art Gallery (until June 15) and another at the Vancouver Maritime Museum (until June 8).

Meanwhile, just days before the celebrations, the Maru monument in Coal Harbour was vandalized — for the second time in less than six months.

Vancouver parks board crews have scrubbed the Harbour Green Park monument clean of graffiti, but the process has left a white stain. The memorial, created in partnership with the Khalsa Diwan Society, was previously defaced when a man was photographed urinating on it in December.

Related Stories:

lcahute@theprovince.com
twitter.com/larissacahute


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,





Featured

desi fun food collectibles

Surrey Night Market will be ‘bigger and better’ in 2015, say organizers

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI The Surrey Night Market is set to return for its second season next spring “bigger and better” than its inaugural year,…
Continue Reading »

Surrey Food Bank-forensics

Surrey woman makes career switch from forensics to food bank

AMY REID SURREY NOW  WHALLEY — With a masters in bioethics and a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, Feezah Jaffer never imagined her landing spot would…
Continue Reading »

stabbing

Surrey stabbing victim dies in hospital

SURREY NOW SURREY — Police are now investigating Surrey’s 17th homicide of the year after a man who was stabbed multiple times in Fleetwood on…
Continue Reading »

LOCAL NEWS

desi fun food collectibles

Surrey Night Market will be ‘bigger and better’ in 2015, say organizers

LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI The Surrey Night Market is set to return for its second season next spring “bigger and better” than its inaugural year,…
Continue Reading »

Surrey Food Bank-forensics

Surrey woman makes career switch from forensics to food bank

AMY REID SURREY NOW  WHALLEY — With a masters in bioethics and a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, Feezah Jaffer never imagined her landing spot would…
Continue Reading »

stabbing

Surrey stabbing victim dies in hospital

SURREY NOW SURREY — Police are now investigating Surrey’s 17th homicide of the year after a man who was stabbed multiple times in Fleetwood on…
Continue Reading »

Don't Miss...

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Avoiding relapse, inviting happiness over the Holiday Season

NIRMALA RANIGA VANCOUVER DESI The holiday season can be an especially challenging time for individuals in recovery from addictive behaviours. Holiday parties and celebrations with…
Continue Reading »

Miss World

Bikini round removed from Miss World pageant

IANS London – The Miss World contest, which has been an annual feature since 1951, will no longer feature a swimsuit round in their competition,…
Continue Reading »

sexi desi babes

Gallery: Wait for India’s Kingfisher Calendar Girl 2015 is almost over

VANCOUVER DESI The Hunt for the Kingfisher Calendar Girl 2015 is almost over. An Indian lifestyle channel will air the grand finale of the reality…
Continue Reading »

Taliban attack

Pakistani student who skipped school on the day of Taliban rampage ‘isn’t talking to anyone’

VANCOUVER DESI A 15-year-old student of Pakistan’s Army Public School  – which was bombed by the Taliban this week, killing 141 people, of which 132…
Continue Reading »

Sikhs to quit Trudeau's Liberals

Sikhs ‘across Canada’ to jump Trudeau ship

Nominations issue: ‘We are not Liberals, that’s for sure,’ says general secretary of Vancouver temple LARISSA CAHUTE VANCOUVER DESI A large group of Sikhs in…
Continue Reading »


Bollywood Latest

Priyanka Chopra

Gallery: Stars come together for another big fat Bollywood wedding

VANCOUVER DESI After Salman Khan’s sister Arpita Khan’s wedding with businessman Aayush Sharma last month, Bollywood stars gathered for another high-profile Bollywood wedding that turned…
Continue Reading »

BOLLYWOOD

Film Review: Aamir Khan’s PK unconventionally outstanding

TROY REBEIRO IANS Film: “PK”; Cast: Aamir Khan, Anushka Sharma, Sushant Singh Rajput, Saurabh Shukla, Boman Irani, Parikshat Shahni; Director: Rajkumar Hirani; Rating: *** 1/2…
Continue Reading »

Bollywood jodis-ex lovers

Bollywood’s ex-flames Shahid Kapoor, Kareena to work together in ‘Udta Punjab’?

IANS Mumbai – Actor Shahid Kapoor, who once dated actress Kareena Kapoor, has said that he has never refused to work with the latter and…
Continue Reading »