The year 2014 is a significant year for Canadians as it marks the Centennial year of the Komagata Maru episode of 1914.
On May 23, 1914, a ship from Hong Kong carrying 376 passengers, mostly from Punjab, British India, arrived in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet. The passengers, who were all British subjects, and therefore should have been allowed entry into Canada, were challenging the Continuous Passage regulation and other restrictive measures which were placed to curb South Asian immigration to Canada. As a result of such restrictive policies, the Komagata Maru was denied docking by the authorities and only twenty returning residents and the ship’s doctor and his family were eventually granted admission to Canada.
Following a two-month standoff, the ship was forced out of the harbour by the Canadian military (HCMS Rainbow) on July 23, 1914 and forced to sail back to Budge-Budge, India. Upon disembarking, nineteen of the passengers were killed by gunfire from British Indian Army troops and many others imprisoned.
This dark moment in Canadian history has been remembered at the Sikh Heritage Museum located in the National Historic Site Gur Sikh Temple in Abbotsford, BC. The Museum launched its sixth official exhibition since its inauguration in 2011 with an exhibition titled: “Challenge and Denial – Komagata Maru 100 years later 1914-2014.”
At the January launch event, Nsibe Kaur, whose father Bhag Singh was on the shore committee that raised $60,000 in 1914 to assist the Komagata Maru passengers, delivered a keynote address that reflected on her experiences within the community in the early 20th century.
The exhibition on the Komagata Maru runs until December 2014. The Sikh Heritage Museum is located at 33094 South Fraser Way in Abbotsford and is open seven days a week from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. To view past exhibitions at the Sikh Heritage Museum, please visit: www.canadiansikhheritage.ca