Last night the Vancouver Parks Board approved a memorial to the Komogata Maru exclusion of 1914. Here’s the gist of the story:
To limit non-European migration, the Canadian government implemented a range of racist policies, including the Direct Passage Act, which requires migrants to come directly to Canada from their home countries without any intermediary stops. Which is impossible from South Asia
- Gurdit Singh Sandhu, a Singaporean Sikh businessman, charters a boat to bring migrants from Calcutta to Vancouver. Eventually nearly 400 South Asians book passage on the boat
- The Komogata Maru (the name of the boat) departs Hong Kong on 04 April 1914 and arrives in Vancouver on 23 May, via Shanghai and Yokohama; passengers join the vessel at each of these ports
- After a two month stalemate, the ship is forcibly towed from Canada to bring the passengers to Calcutta. In the interim 24 passengers are allowed to enter Canada
- Upon arrival in Calcutta British authorities try to arrest Sandhu and other “leaders” on the boat; 19 passengers are killed by the British. Most of the surviving passengers are arrested and held in custody until the end of World War One
- It’s important to remember that as persons from what is now India, these men were all British subjects who should have had the right to emigrate to Canada as British subjects
It’s a shameful story, but one that has created countless teachable moments here in BC. More info can be found here.