City of New Westminster expected to proclaim Mewa Singh Day to honour martyr who murdered immigration inspector

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      A Sikh pioneer in B.C. will be honoured on the 105th anniversary of being hanged in New Westminster.

      Mewa Singh,who's revered by community activists, was convicted in 1914 of murdering controversial immigration inspector William Charles Hopkinson.

      Hopkinson ran a network of spies that kept the Sikh community under surveillance. That's because they were involved in anticolonial resistance against the British Empire, which was ruling India.

      Hopkinson also played a key role in the expulsion of the Komagata Maru vessel, carrying more than 350 South Asian passengers, from Vancouver's harbour in 1914.

      In addition, one of his alleged spies, Bela Singh, murdered a prominent Sikh community leader, Bhaag Singh, and one of his compatriots who had helped passengers onboard the vessel.

      In retaliation, Mewa Singh murdered Hopkinson, confessed to his crime, and willingly went to the gallows.

      His portrait hangs in the Mewa Singh Room in the Ross Street gurdwara and in the constituency office of Surrey–Green Timbers NDP MLA Rachna Singh.

      Last year, Surrey–Green Timbers NDP MLA Rachna Singh unveiled artist Jarnail Singh's (third from right) painting of Mewa Singh in her constituency office office.
      Gurpreet Singh

      "For the honour and prestige of my religion and community, I have killed Hopkinson," Mewa Singh said before he was executed. "It was beyond me to tolerate all this."

      The City of New Westminster will declare January 11 as Mewa Singh Day.

      The city councillor who's behind the proclamation, Chuck Puchmayr, is a vocal advocate for social justice.

      Playwright Paneet Singh, who grew up in New Westminster, wrote The Undocumented Trial of William C. Hopkinson to elevate awareness of Mewa Singh's actions. The playwright relied on transcripts from the trial, which reflected the intense discrimination directed against Punjabi immigrants in that era.

      The Undocumented Trial of William C. Hopkinson was staged at the Monsoon Festival of Performing Arts in 2018.

      Mewa Singh's execution took place in Simcoe Park.

      Last year on the 114th anniversary, Paneet Singh explained on Instagram how Mewa Singh has continued to be remembered and honoured by the community.

      Radical Desi submitted a request to the B.C. government for a Mewa Singh Day proclamation, but that was declined.

      The City of New Westminster, on the other hand, enthusiastically accepted the request.

      This municipality has taken other steps in recent years to elevate residents' understanding of Canada's racist past.

      In 2010, the City of New Westminster became the first municipal government in Canada to apologize for its historical discrimination against Chinese Canadians.

      That was eight years earlier than the City of Vancouver's apology.

      More recently, the City of New Westminster removed a statue of former colonial judge Matthew Begbie from the front of the courthouse after a request from Tŝilhqot'in leaders in the B.C. Interior.

      Begbie ordered the hanging of six Indigenous chiefs in the 1860s. They've since been exonerated by the federal and provincial governments.