The Komagata Maru incident – Past racism, future challenges

Commemorations of the Komagata Maru incident of 1914 when Canada refused entry of a ship of British Indian immigrants not only looks at the past, says curator Naveen Girn. Photo Credit: Komagata Maru 1914-2014
Commemorations of the Komagata Maru incident of 1914 when Canada refused entry of a ship of British Indian immigrants not only looks at the past, says curator Naveen Girn.
Photo Credit: Komagata Maru 1914-2014

On Friday morning (May 23) Naveen Girn started his day at Vancouver harbour, and tried to imagine what it was like for 376 passengers 100 years earlier on May 23, 1914 who arrived at the harbour, and then were prevented from entering Canada.

They were British subjects, most from India’s Punjab and Sikh, who faced anti-immigration laws made specifically to prevent their entry into the country.

One hundred years later, the South Asian community and the larger Canadian mainstream marked those events with ceremonies and museum exhibits.

Earlier this year Canada Post came out with a stamp commemorating the Komagata Maru incident. In 2008, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized to the community in a speech near Vancouver, but not in the House of Commons as some in the community wanted.

RCI’s Wojtek Gwiazda spoke about the incident and the commemorations with Naveen Girn, Project Manager of Komagata Maru 100: Generations, Geographies and Echoes, a series of activities taking place in Vancouver during 2014 involving eight institutions and organisations. He is also the curator of the Museum of Vancouver’s studio exhibition “Unmoored: Vancouver’s Voyage of the Komagata Maru”.

More informatiion:
Komagata Maru 100 website – komagatamaru100.com
Komagata Maru – Continuing the Journey website – komagatamarujourney.ca
Museum of Vancouver – Unmoored: Vancouver’s Voyage of the Komagata Maru – here

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