Gurpreet Singh: Calendar commemorates expulsion of South Asian immigrants under racist legislation

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A calendar dedicated to the centenary of the Komagata Maru episode was released in the Lower Mainland over the weekend.

Issued by the Indo Canadian Workers’ Association (ICWA), it bears the picture of passengers aboard Komagata Maru ship forced to return to Incia by the Canadian government 100 years ago under discriminatory immigration legislation.

The vessel was charted by Gurdit Singh with more 350 South Asian passengers aboard who were travelling to Canada for a better livelihood in 1914.

Passengers were not allowed to disembark and were forced to return on July 23, 1914, under the shadow of guns.

Canadian authorities now acknowledge that it was a discriminatory act.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized for the episode in 2008, and the British Columbia legislative assembly has passed a motion of apology.

The calendar, which carries other important dates related to the history of South Asian political activists in Canada, was unveiled by Raj Toor, a member of a group representing descendants of the Komagata Maru passengers, along with NDP MP Jinny Sims and NDP MLA Harry Bains.

The ICWA has been issuing annual calendars dedicated to political activism since 2007 when the centenary of the birth of India’s towering revolutionary, Bhagat Singh, was celebrated.

This year’s calendar is also dedicated to Bhaag Singh on the centenary of his death. Bhaag Singh was a prominent Vancouver community leader, who died in a temple shooting that occurred in September 1914 in the aftermath of the Komagata Maru incident.

He was shot by an agent of controversial immigration inspector William Hopkinson, who was later assassinated by another political activist, Mewa Singh.

Prior to his assassination, Bhaag Singh had played a significant role in various social-justice struggles for equal rights for immigrants.

This weekend, ICWA president Surinder Sangha warned that challenges such as racism continue to prevail even today, and called upon the community to get organized and resist rather than remaining confined to symbolic celebrations.

In the meantime, Punjabi Sahit Sabha Mudhli will be holding an event at 2 p.m. on Sunday (February 2) in Abbotsford to mark the 100th anniversary of the death of Harnam Kaur, wife of Bhaag Singh. Harnam Kaur had participated in the struggle for the right to bring families from India. The event will be held at the Heritage Sikh temple.

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p lg
I am proud to say that Lester Pearson and then Pierre Elliot Trudeau had a larger vision of what Canada could be. Under their leadership Canada opened up the borders to peoples around the globe including those of the Sikh faith. What was once a marginal ethnic community in the Metro Vancouver area has now blossomed into one of the more lively and progressive ethnic groups with significant political influence.
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John
@p lg: not only that they made life in Canada better for people of colour who were oppressed for generations e.g racist attitudes that barred entry of South Asians, Chinese, Blacks or Aboriginals into restaurants, bars and events were now made punishable by law. Also, there were racist bylaws in the city of Vancouver and others until the 70's preventing a person of colour or mixed ancestry from staying overnight in some neighbourhoods in Vancouver unless employed by a person of European descent forget about renting or buying a house in those parts of the city.
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