In a new exhibit, the story of the Komagata Maru is told on a single wall of four screens at Surrey museum. The community treasures section of the Cloverdale facility is home to echoes of the Komagata Maru: 1914 to 2014.
One hundred years ago this spring, the Japanese ship was denied entry into Canada on an immigration technicality. A standoff in Burrard Inlet lasted two months, forcing the majority of its 376 south Asian passengers to live on the ship without adequate food, water and medical attention.
Among those aboard the Komagata Maru was Puran Singh Janetpura, the grandfather of Surrey residents Jas and Raj Toor, brothers who attended a media tour of the exhibit last week.
Janetpura wanted to come to Canada for further his education, the pair told the Now, but he and the others were turned away because the Komagata Maru was unable to meet regulations under Canada’s harsh Continuous Passage Regulation.
Several decades later, in the 1970s, Janetpura was given another opportunity to come to Canada to live with his son and other family members, but refused.
"He said he had a painful memory, a very bitter memory of Canada, and he didn’t come to live here,” Raj Toor said. “But he knew that other south Asians would be very successful here, and live happily and peacefully."
The Toor brothers are among those interviewed for the exhibit at Surrey museum, part of a collaborative effort to mark the centennial locally. Partners in Komagata Maru 100 include Surrey Art Gallery (where the group exhibit Ruptures in Arrival: Art in the wake of the Komagata Maru will open on April 19), Surrey Libraries, PICS, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver Maritime Museum, Museum of Vancouver and Khalsa Diwan Society. Event details are at komagatamaru100.com.
Project manager Naveen Girn has spent two years pulling together the stories that echoed from the Komagata Maru 'episode,' which unfolded when the ship arrived in Vancouver on May 23, 1914.
We don’t use the word ‘incident,’ we use ‘episode’ to show that the Komagata Maru is one chapter in a longer narrative – that it’s not just about 1914, it’s about 2014, too. Also new to Surrey museum is the exhibit Fakes & Forgeries, on loan from the Royal Ontario Museum until May 24.