BRITISH Columbia has proclaimed May 23, 2022 as Komagata Maru Remembrance Day and Raj Singh Toor, Vice President and spokesperson for the Descendants of the Komagata Maru Society, has welcomed the honour.
He lauded the diverse makeup of the province and of Canada, adding: “We are all richer when we remember how special it is to have so many different ethnic communities living together. I hope that it will help to connect Canadians and British Columbians with their past to build a more peaceful and tolerant tomorrow.”
According to Wikipedia, the Komagata Maru incident involved a Japanese steamship on which a group of people from British India attempted to immigrate to Canada in April 1914, but most were denied entry and forced to return to Calcutta (present-day Kolkata). There, the Indian Imperial Police attempted to arrest the group leaders. A riot ensued, and they were fired upon by the police, resulting in the deaths of 20 people. The steamship was carrying 376 passengers: 337 Sikhs, 27 Muslims and 12 Hindus, all Punjabis and British subjects. Of these 376 passengers, 24 were admitted to Canada.
The April 28 proclamation reads:
WHEREAS the diverse cultural, ethnic, racial and religious heritage of British Columbians is a fundamental characteristic of this society and contributes greatly to life in the province, and
WHEREAS on May 23, 1914, three hundred and seventy-six British subjects from India of Sikh, Muslim and Hindu origin arrived in Vancouver Harbour aboard the Komagata Maru, which was docked in the Burrard Inlet with passengers seeking to enter Canada, and
WHEREAS on July 23, 1914, the Komagata Maru was forced to leave as a result of the discriminatory “Continuous Journey” regulation enacted by the Government of Canada, without allowing the passengers to disembark, and upon their return to India, 19 passengers were killed and others imprisoned, and
WHEREAS on May 23, 2008, by request on behalf of the Descendants of the Komagata Maru Society, the British Columbia Legislative Assembly stood together to formally apologize to passengers on the Komagata Maru and their families, stating that “the House deeply regrets that the passengers, who sought refuge in our country and our province, were turned away without benefit of the fair and impartial treatment befitting a society where people of all cultures are welcomed and accepted,” and
WHEREAS the government of British Columbia is committed to continuously challenging and addressing discrimination, unconscious bias, racism and hate in this society, and Komagata Maru Remembrance Day is an opportunity for British Columbians to reflect on historic injustices while raising awareness about the many forms of discrimination and inequality disproportionately suffered by racialized communities;
NOW KNOW YE THAT We do by these presents proclaim and declare that May 23, 2022, shall be known as
“Komagata Maru Remembrance Day”
in the Province of British Columbia.