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Komagata Maru incident gets new historic plaque in Vancouver

Jenni Sheppard Aug 09, 2016 3:34 am

The tragedy of the Komagata Maru incident of 1914 has been recognized with a new plaque unveiled by Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan in Vancouver.

Some 376 British subjects of Sikh, Muslim, and Hindu origin were aboard the Komagata Maru ship when it arrived in Burrard Inlet on May 23, 1914.

However, in a time of ugly racial rhetoric, the public was opposed to the passengers’ immigration and discriminatory laws stopped most of them coming ashore.

Immigrants on board the Komagata Maru in English Bay in 1914. (Library and Archives Canada / PA-034014)

Immigrants on board the Komagata Maru in English Bay in 1914. (Library and Archives Canada / PA-034014)

Vancouver’s South Asian community tried to fight the deportation of the passengers, but the ship was forced to leave after two months of waiting in the waves.

On arrival back in India, 19 of the passengers were killed and many others were imprisoned.

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Earlier this year, Justin Trudeau formally apologized for the Komagata Maru incident, saying it was a moment of “great injustice.”

This week, Sajjan said the government behaved “shamefully” in 1914; he now officially recognized the incident as an event of historical significance.

“I am honoured to stand with the South Asian community and recognize the Komagata Maru incident as an event of national historic significance,” said Sajjan in a release.

“[It] helped shaped the values – including multiculturalism – that have become a source of strength for our country today.”

The new plaque has been placed at the existing memorial to the Komagata Maru incident along the seawall near the Convention Centre in Vancouver.

Jenni Sheppard
Jenni is a former Senior Staff Writer at Daily Hive. Happy Vancouverite. Traveller, snowboarder, foodie, film fan, feminist, geek, cheesemaker, curler.

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