PRIME Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday in a statement on the anniversary of the Komagata Maru incident said: “In the spring of 1914, 376 Sikhs, Muslims, and Hindus of South Asian origin arrived in Vancouver’s harbour aboard the Komagata Maru steamship. Like millions of others before and after them, they hoped to settle into Canada and build a better life for themselves and their families.
“Due to the racist and discriminatory laws of the time, most of the passengers were refused entry into Canada and detained on board. For two months, Canadian immigration officials confined them to the ship and denied them sufficient access to medical aid, food, or water. Despite the best efforts of the local South Asian community, the passengers lost their appeal in Canadian court and were forced to return to India, where some were killed and many others imprisoned.
“We will never forget the pain and suffering of those who lived through these shameful events at the hands of the Canadian government. Six years ago, I stood in the House of Commons to apologize on behalf of the Government of Canada to all those affected by the Komagata Maru incident. Today and every day, what happened more than a century ago serves as a reminder to all Canadians of the importance of treating each other with dignity and respect, fighting racism and discrimination in all its forms, and promoting equity and inclusion. We will continue to learn from the mistakes of our past to ensure they never happen again.
“As we pay tribute to the victims of the Komagata Maru incident and their descendants, I encourage everyone to reflect on the many contributions Canada’s South Asian communities have made and continue to make to our country. Today, we reaffirm our commitment to build a better country for everyone. Canada is strong, not in spite of our differences, but because of them.”
CONSERVATIVE Party Leader Candice Bergen said in a statement: “On May 23, 1914, the Komagata Maru sailed into the Burrard Inlet in Vancouver carrying 376 passengers.
“These travellers had braved the journey across the Pacific and were looking to settle in Canada. They were also seeking to challenge the racist immigration laws that the Government of Canada had created in order to stop South Asians from coming into the country.
“Upon their arrival, the passengers of the Komagata Maru were denied entry and forced to stay aboard their ship. After suffering two months of isolation and bigotry, the Komagata Maru was ultimately forced out of Canadian waters, escorted by the Canadian military.
“Tragically, upon their return to India, several of these passengers were killed and many more were imprisoned.
“Canada’s rejection of the Komagata Maru passengers based on their race is a painful part of our history. Today, on the 108th anniversary of their arrival, we remember the victims of these deeply unjust decisions and renew our commitment to fighting racism, xenophobia, and discrimination.
“Today, Canada is extremely proud to be the home of nearly two million people with South Asian heritage, including many Punjabis. As we continue to learn from the mistakes of our past, I encourage all Canadians to celebrate the incredibly enriching contributions that the South Asian community has made to our country.”
B.C. Premier John Horgan said in a statement: “Today marks the 108th anniversary of the arrival of the Komagata Maru in Vancouver harbour. The 376 Sikh, Muslim and Hindu passengers aboard were seeking a better life in Canada. Their arrival was met by hostility, prejudice and injustice.
“Canadian immigration officials refused to allow the travellers to disembark, confining them to the cramped quarters aboard ship for two months. Supplies of food, and even water, were restricted. After a standoff in the harbour, the ship was forced from Canadian waters. Upon returning to India, 19 passengers were killed. Others were imprisoned.
“Those barred from entry to British Columbia included students, labourers and former soldiers. Their desire to contribute to a new land was thwarted and their possible contributions to this province will go forever unknown.
“In 2008, the Province of British Columbia formally apologized in the legislative chamber for its role in the Komagata Maru tragedy. Earlier this year, the government funded resources by the South Asian Canadian Legacy Project to raise awareness about the many contributions South Asian Canadians have made to the province’s culture, heritage and economy.
“Our government recently introduced an anti-racism data act, the first of its kind in Canada. It is an important step toward dismantling systemic racism and discrimination faced by Indigenous, Black and people of colour.
“There is more work to do. How far we have come is a testament to the incredible resiliency in our province, including those who stand up to injustice and try to make B.C. safer and more equitable for everyone.”
To learn more about the South Asian Canadian Legacy Project, visit: