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102nd Anniversary Of Komagata Maru’s Arrival In Burrard Inlet Observed

102 years ago Monday a tired group of would-be migrants – all British subjects – sailed into Burrard Inlet. They were met with the fear and hatred of the local populace, at a time when Empire subjects should have been welcomed with open arms.

A population enslaved by an empire; a shipload of would-be pioneers; the angst of colonial bigotry.  All these factors combined to shape and harden the resolve of the Ghadar movement that fateful May 23rd in 1914.  A world gripped with the foreboding shadow of ‘the war to end all wars’ gave little quarter to the wishes of freedom fighters wanting independence for their colonized homeland.  No imperial tear was shed for the victims of this terminated voyage.

“As we observe the one hundred and second anniversary of those horrible events we can at long last claim that some semblance of closure has been achieved, thanks to the actions of the many who joined in our struggle for an official Parliamentary apology by the government of Canada.  This is a victory for them, and for all South Asians”, says Sahib Thind – President of the Professor Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation.  “It is also a victory for the multicultural mosaic that is Canada” adds Thind.

“Five days ago, in the nations capital, members of our foundation were able to witness an historic event (the apology).  We also observed unanimous support from the leadership of all parties in Parliament:  the governing Liberals, the Conservatives, the NDP, the Bloc Quebecois, and the Green Party” adds Communications Director, Herman Thind.

The events of this past week were a welcome answer to almost a quarter century of petitions and requests for a formal apology by The Professor Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation.  While the foundation worked with several governments to encourage the apology, they particularly appreciate the efforts of the current government for acting on years of petitions, initially promising the apology at the foundation’s 2014 annual festival.  After 102 long years, the tragic story of these early South Asian pioneers will be enshrined in the national public record.  The foundation thanks the Right Honourable Prime Minister and the Hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage for their parts in this process.

The foundation now shifts their efforts to ensuring that Canadian school children will learn about this incident and others like it, in order to ensure we don’t repeat the mistakes of a century ago.  As stated in the foundation’s earliest of petitions, over a dozen years ago:  “An account of the Komagata Maru tragedy and South-Asian-Canadian history should become part of the school curriculum in BC and across Canada.  The Federal Government can facilitate coordinating this with the Provinces (under whose jurisdiction Education falls).”

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