Canada recognises Komagata Maru venue as site of historic significance

  • IANS, Toronto
  • Updated: Aug 09, 2016 14:55 IST
On July 23, 1914, Komagata Maru ship was escorted out of the Vancouver harbour by the Canadian military, and forced to return to India, where 20 passengers were killed. (HT File Photo)

After Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s apology in the House of Commons in May for the tragic 1914 Komagata Maru incident, Canada officially recognised its venue as a site of national historic significance.

Defence minister Harjit Singh Sajjan unveiled a commemorative plaque on Sunday at the venue of the Komagata Maru episode in Vancouver over 102 years ago.

The Komagata Maru was a Japanese ship hired by wealthy Sikh Gurdit Singh from Malaysia to bring 376 persons, mostly Punjabis, from India to Canada to challenge the racist laws of the time. The ship anchored in Vancouver in May 1914, but the passengers were not allowed to disembark.

The ship was forcibly returned to India after two months of stand-off. On arrival in Kolkata, as many as 20 passengers were killed by British Indian police. “On this day, 102 years ago, the Canadian Government shamefully turned away 376 immigrants because of their country of origin. Today, as a representative of the Canadian Government, I am honoured to stand with the South Asian community and recognise the Komagata Maru Incident as an event of national historic significance which helped shaped the values, including multiculturalism, that have become a source of strength for our country today,” Sajjan said at the inauguration of the plaque.

The tragedy, along with the laws in force at the time that allowed Canada to be indifferent to the plight of the ship’s passengers, signifies a moment of great importance in the history of immigration and race relations in Canada, said a government statement on Sunday.

The statement said the designation of the Komagata Maru Incident site provides an opportunity for all Canadians to learn more about India’s varied history, rich diversity and the lessons we have learned.

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