On May 23, 1914, the Komagata Maru sailed into Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet, carrying 376 passengers of Indian origin. However, the passengers on board the Japanese steamer were denied permission to enter Canada. Fears over Asian immigration at the time led the Canadian government to adopt a series of racist exclusionary policies against Chinese, Japanese and Indian migrants.
In the case of Indian migrants, Canada enacted the Continuous Journey Regulation. The Continuous Journey Regulation was an order-in-council that only permitted entry to those migrants who arrived to Canada by boat from their country of origin through a continuous journey and were in possession of $200. Migrants who arrived on a boat that stopped anywhere in between Canada and their country of origin or were in possession of less than $200 were denied entry. At the time, it was highly unlikely that migrants could make the journey from India to Canada without stopping en route. Moreover, the $200 fee was a considerable sum at the time, especially for Asian migrants. This regulation was designed to prevent Indian migration to Canada without being explicit in its intent.
For two months, passengers of the Komagata Maru sought to defy the Continuous Journey Regulation. While the passengers were not allowed to disembark the ship, supporters in Vancouver challenged the regulation on their behalf in court. Ultimately unsuccessful, the Komagata Maru sailed out of the Burrard Inlet on July 23, 1914 to the uncertain fates that awaited the ship's passengers in Asia.
(For more information on the Komagata Maru Episode, please visit Simon Fraser University's Komagata Maru: Continuing the Journey.)
This year marks 100 years since the Komagata Maru Episode.
To commemorate the anniversary, we are hosting a series of exhibitions, film screenings and lectures on the episode as part of Komagata Maru Week.
From May 26 – June 6, 2014, we will be exploring what happened in the Burrard Inlet a century ago, situating the episode in the broader context of Canadian history and connecting it to current migratory policies:
Monday, May 26: Exhibit Reception, featuring documents and photographs from the Komagatu Maru Incident in 1914 along with interpretations of the incident by two emerging artists. Councillor Amarjeet Sohi will be introducing the event.
Tuesday, May 27: Continuous Journey, an award winning documentary on the episode will be screened, followed by a Q+A session with Ali Kazimi.
Thursday, May 29: Slam Poetry Night, Join us for an evening of spoken word poetry from local poets highlighting themes of race, discrimination, and multiculturalism in Canadian society.
Friday, May 30: Lecture in Punjabi, Come hear retired UBC professor, poet, and author Sadhu Binning reflect on the Komagata Maru Incident
Saturday, May 31: 1pm - 3:30pm, Discussion Panel, Take part in an engaged conversation featuring Renee Vaugeois, Raj Sharma and others discussing the relevance of historical events such as Komagata Maru to today’s sociopolitical landscape.
All events during the Komagata Maru Week are free; please help us with planning by RSVPing in advance.
An additional aspect of Komagata Maru Week is our exploration of the impact the episode has had on Canadian identity. Throughout the year, we will be posting personal essays on our Reflections blog, where South Asian and non-South Asian Canadians will reflect on how the episode has shaped their understandings of what it means to be Canadian. Through these reflections, we hope to foster a broader conversation on how episodes such as these inform who we are as Canadians and connect us together.
We hope you will enjoy our programming and participate in the discussion.
Harneet Chahal, Jaspreet Pandher, and Sahil Gupta
Komagata Maru Week Edmonton
Komagata Maru Week Edmonton is brought to you in support from the John Humphrey Center for Peace and Human Rights