New storyboard at Surrey’s R.A. Nicholson Park honours victims of Komagata Maru

SURREY Mayor Doug McCallum and members of City Council unveiled a new heritage storyboard titled Remembering the Komagata Maru at a local Surrey park this week. Raj Singh Toor, representing the Descendants of the Komagata Maru Society, was also on hand for the unveiling.

“This storyboard is an important reflection on a significant moment in Canadian history,” said McCallum. “Surrey is a diverse City, and we embrace people from all over the world. This permanent storyboard reinforces that we will learn from, and not forget the injustices of the past. Racism has no place in our City.”

“We can’t undo the past, but we can move forward and leave a legacy for future generations by educating them about the past,” said Toor, Vice President of the Descendants of the Komagata Maru Society. “This new storyboard will help educate the community and remind us of Surrey’s diverse makeup. I hope that it will help in connecting British Columbians, Canadians and Surrey residents with their past, in order to build a more peaceful and tolerant tomorrow.”

In 2019, Council supported recommendations from the Surrey Heritage Advisory Commission to conduct research into the earliest South Asians in Surrey, deliver programming relevant to Surrey’s diverse communities, and to create a heritage storyboard reflecting on the Komagata Maru incident and systemic racism.

Each year, the Surrey Heritage Advisory Commission funds new heritage storyboards and other interpretive features throughout the City. This program ensures Surrey’s diverse history is accessible in locations city-wide. To date, over 50 heritage storyboards exist across the City.

The storyboard is located in R.A. Nicholson Park, 12140 75A Avenue, not far from the Komagata Maru mural and commemorative street signs on 75A Avenue. The storyboard is located on the pedestrian path just behind the Strawberry Hill Hall.

According to a federal government website: “On May 23, 1914, the Komagata Maru reached Vancouver’s harbour via Hong Kong and Japan carrying 376 prospective South Asian immigrants who hoped to settle in Canada. The passengers, however, did not receive a friendly welcome. Their arrival provoked massive opposition from the public, and prevalent ideas of race and exclusion held by the majority of the local population led to an outpouring of racial rhetoric and considerable effort to force the ship’s return to India. In response to this backlash, the local South Asian community came together to fight the deportation of the passengers. While a legal challenge mounted, the community was unsuccessful and the vast majority of the passengers were forced to leave.”