media release

Commemorating Komagata Maru at 100

May 23, 2014
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Contact:
Naveen Girn, KomagataMaru100.com, 604.715.7374, naveengirn@gmail.com
Brian Owen, SFU Library, 778.782.7095, gwbowen@sfu.ca
Scott McLean, SFU Vancouver, 778.782.5151, srmclean@sfu.ca

Link to video: http://vimeo.com/94927008

Political and community leaders gathered at Simon Fraser University’s Vancouver campus Friday morning to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the Komagata Maru.

The Komagata Maru incident is one of the most infamous episodes in Vancouver’s early history. On May 23, 1914, the Komagata Maru, a Japanese charter ship, brought 376 migrants from Punjab, India – almost all British citizens – to Vancouver. Officials refused to let them disembark and after two months the ship was forcibly sent back to India where British India police in Calcutta shot dead 19 of the passengers.

“The Komagata Maru is a dark chapter in the history of our country,” said Minister of State (Multiculturalism) Tim Uppal.

“Although there is still work to be done, Canada has come a long way since 1914. One century after the Komagata Maru incident we have cause to celebrate the progress we have made in forging a truly multi-cultural society.”

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark was represented by Minister of Advanced Education Amrik Virk, and provided a video greeting to those in attendance.

“One hundred years ago, the Komagata Maru arrived in Vancouver with 376 people on board. They came to our province with a dream of a better life, but they weren’t given that opportunity,” said Clark.

“This terrible act of racism is an important reminder to us all today; we must value, respect and welcome all immigrants and refugees who seek to build their lives here in B.C. They make our province better, they build communities, they enrich our culture and strengthen our economy. We have learned a lot over the last century, and we must never, never forget this important lesson.”

SFU is one of eight Metro Vancouver institutions which have collaborated to mark the 100th anniversary of the incident with a series entitled Komagata Maru 1914-2014: Generations, Geographies and Echoes. At Friday’s event, a video detailing the journey, and produced for the series, premiered.

“The last line of the video speaks of the opportunity we now have to reclaim and retell the story of Canada, in a manner that acknowledges the history of racism and exclusion represented by the Komagata Maru,” said SFU President Andrew Petter. 

“As we are gathered together today, 100 years later, I see this event as providing such an opportunity. In commemorating the Komagata Maru incident, we not only recall past wrongs, we also renew our commitment to celebrating diversity and protecting human rights.”

In 2012, the SFU Library, with support from Citizenship and Immigration Canada, launched www.komagatamarujourney.ca, an interactive website and digital archive that chronicles the Komagata Maru incident, as well as events preceding and following its journey. The website has helped to inform thousands of individuals and school children about its historical impact since its unveiling two years ago.

Over the past year the website has attracted more than 16,000 visits from 81 different countries, including the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and India. Featuring video interviews with scholars, community members and even pioneer immigrants and their descendants, the site hosts a wealth of digitized material – documents, photographs, reports, newspaper articles; even a rare speech by Jawaharlal Nehru in Vancouver in 1949 – as well as lesson plans designed for elementary and secondary schools, created in consultation with education professionals.

Following Friday’s ceremony a procession walked from SFU’s Vancouver campus to the Komagata Maru memorial in Vancouver’s Harbour Green Park.

Komagata Maru 1914-2014: Generations, Geographies and Echoes is a partnership between Progressive Intercultural Services Society (PICS), the Khalsa Diwan Society (Ross Street Temple), the Museum of Vancouver, Simon Fraser University Library, Surrey Art Gallery, Surrey Museum, Surrey Public Libraries, and the Vancouver Maritime Museum.

Simon Fraser University is consistently ranked among Canada's top comprehensive universities and is one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 125,000 alumni in 130 countries.

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Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.

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