PREMIER Christy Clark on Wednesday was joined by NDP Leader John Horgan, Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk and members of the South Asian community in the B.C. Legislature with the provincial proclamation declaring May 28, 2014, as “Komagata Maru Remembrance Day.”
On May 23, 1914, a ship named the Komagata Maru entered Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet carrying 376 passengers from India who had hopes for a new life in Canada. After that long journey they were turned away and not allowed to enter the country. What made this event more tragic was that, upon their forced repatriation to India, 19 individuals were killed.
On Wednesday, the Government of British Columbia joined many others to remember the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the ship and its passengers.
The Komagata Maru incident was a stain on the history of Canada and highlights the racist government policies of the time. Despite the fact that all of the passengers were British Subjects, they were not allowed to set foot on Canadian soil. Instead, they faced racism and hatred.
In 2008, the B.C. legislature made a formal apology to the South Asian community and to the families of the victims of this incident. The motion reads as follows:
“Be it resolved that this Legislature apologizes for the events of May 23, 1914, when 376 passengers of the Komagata Maru, stationed off Vancouver harbour, were denied entry by Canada. The House deeply regrets that the passengers, who sought refuge in our country and our province, were turned away without benefit of the fair and impartial treatment befitting a society where people of all cultures are welcomed and accepted.”
The B.C. government said it believes that a rich multicultural society helps nurture acceptance, understanding and mutual respect. Cultural diversity, increased participation and engagement by all cultures are vitally important to create a strong and vibrant social and economic future for British Columbia.
Clark said: “Today this treatment would be unimaginable. We, as a province and as a nation, embrace people from all cultures. For over 100 years, the South Asian community has contributed to the development of Canada and British Columbia, and the cultural diversity they bring has enriched our society, our communities, and our nation.”
Horgan said: “Remembering the Komagata Maru helps ensure tragedies like this never happen again. Today, members of the South Asian community are leaders in our province, from public policy and business, to athletics, arts and culture. The people of BC recognize that a diverse and inclusive society benefits everyone.”
* B.C. is the most ethnically diverse province in Canada and welcomes nearly 40,000 new immigrants every year.
* One-quarter of the people in B.C. are self-identified visible minorities, and 5% identify as Aboriginal.
* Since 1990, B.C.’s Multicultural Advisory Council has promoted cross-cultural understanding and respect throughout the province and sponsors the Provincial Nesika Awards.
* The Provincial Nesika Awards recognizes British Columbians who, through their outstanding achievements promoting multiculturalism, bring diverse cultures together.
* Every year, the third week in November is proclaimed as B.C. Multiculturalism Week.