100-year anniversary stamp for Komagata Maru approved by Canada Post

LARISSA CAHUTE
VANCOUVER DESI

 

Vancouver’s Komagata Maru Heritage Foundation has made another step toward better educating the public on the injustices faced by their friends and family members nearly 100 years ago.

According to foundation president, Harb Gill, Canada Post has announced their approval for a stamp dedicated to the 100 year anniversary of the Komagata Maru incident, which will take place in spring 2014.

“It’s a good achievement for the community,” said Gill. “It’s a good way of actually teaching our future generations.”
“It’s part of Canadian history, there was injustice done many years ago — 99 years ago, to be exact — at that time there were policies and now we’ve gone away from that, (but the) injustice still happened.”

The Komagata Maru was a Japanese ship chartered by a Sikh entrepreneur to bring 376 hopeful Punjabi immigrants to Canada, only to be denied entry once it reached Vancouver by Canada’s exclusion law.

The ship was docked in Vancouver’s harbour for more than two months in the summer of 1914 and is now known as one of the most infamous events in the early history of the city.

Only about 20 passengers were eventually able to prove residency and allowed to disembark before the ship was forced out of Vancouver and back to India on July 23, 1914,

“The South Asian community is pretty well aware what had happened,” said Gill, whose grandfather lived in Vancouver at the time, having immigrated to Canada in 1906, and most likely helped the passengers stranded on the ship.

“I know many families whose grandfather or even father was on the ship,” he added. “Six months on the sea and then not achieving your goal of reaching Canada, not only you lost all your money and you go back and start your life over again.”

But Gill is worried the non-South Asian communities aren’t fully aware of the travesties faced by these hopeful immigrants.

“The reason we opened the foundation 15 years ago (was because) there were not that many people aware, (so we want to) make Canadians aware,” he said.