VANCOUVER Police are collecting evidence after someone defaced the city’s Komagata Maru Memorial Sunday. Police are treating the troubling incident as a possible hate crime.
“Front-line officers and other specially-trained investigators worked throughout the evening yesterday, and will continue to gather evidence in this disturbing crime,” said Sgt. Steve Addison on Monday. “This investigation is a priority, and we are committed to finding out who is responsible and why they did this.”
Vancouver Police immediately launched an investigation Sunday, after multiple online and media reports began showing white paint splattered on the memorial, located on the seawall in Coal Harbour. The graffiti, which included multiple white hand-prints, covered the names of people who had been aboard the Komagata Maru when it arrived in Vancouver in 1914, carrying nearly 400 people from India who were denied entry to Canada despite being citizens of the British Empire.
“This monument is an important memorial to the people who traveled here seeking a better life and were wrongfully turned away because of racist policies,” added Addison. “It is disheartening that someone could show such disrespect to this important memorial, and we’d like anyone with information to come forward.”
Anyone with information about this crime is asked to call 604-717-0613.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a tweet: “The vandalism of the Komagata Maru Memorial in Vancouver is a despicable act of hate. The memorial is a reminder of a dark chapter of racism in our history. Acts of hate like this have no place in our country and we will continue to fight against it.”
B.C. Premier John Horgan tweeted: “I’m deeply upset and angry about this ignorant act. My thoughts are with people in BC’s Punjabi community. We must understand our past to build a better future, and the names on this memorial deserve respect.”
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said in a tweet: “It’s absolutely disgraceful that the Komagata Maru Memorial was defaced … This is an insult to those who were on the ship and their families. I hope to see those responsible held accountable.”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh tweeted: “The Komagata Maru represents a painful part of our history. This act of vandalism is wrong and it’s hurtful. This memorial embodies the perseverance and resilience of a community – that will remain long after the paint has been removed.”
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.
Komagata Maru sailed from British Hong Kong, via Shanghai, China, and Yokohama, Japan, to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on April 4, 1914, carrying 376 passengers from Punjab province in British India. The passengers comprised 337 Sikhs, 27 Muslims and 12 Hindus, all Punjabis and British subjects. Of these 376 passengers, 24 were admitted to Canada, but the other 352 were not allowed to disembark in Canada, and the ship was forced to leave Canadian waters. The ship was escorted by HMCS Rainbow, one of Canada’s first two naval vessels. This was one of several incidents in the early 20th century in which exclusion laws in Canada and the United States were used to exclude immigrants of Asian origin.
The man who was photographed urinating on the Komagata Maru Monument in December of 2013 apologized. Then-Chief Constable Jim Chu told the media that the man appeared to have a “serious mental disorder”. He said the man was “an illicit drug user and would fit into the category studied recently in the Downtown Eastside of a severely addicted mentally ill person.”
Why weren’t security cameras installed after that incident?