A history lesson about the Komagata Maru incident now has a permanent home in a Surrey park.
The story of the ship and its stranded passengers is told in a new heritage storyboard installed at R.A. Nicholson Park on 75A Avenue, in the Strawberry Hill area of Newton.
The storyboard, among 50 such heritage signs at locations across Surrey, is part of work by the Surrey Heritage Advisory Commission to shed light on the Komagata Maru’s troubles in Vancouver more than 100 years ago.
Raj Singh Toor, grandson of a passenger aboard the ship, called the storyboard “a good learning tool” to inform Surrey residents of this dark bit of history.
“We can’t undo the past, but we can move forward and leave a legacy for future generations by educating them about the past,” Toor said.
The Komagata Maru arrived in Vancouver from Hong Kong on May 23, 1914, carrying 376 passengers, according to an account posted to komagatamarujourney.ca. Most of the passengers were immigrants from the Punjab region in what was then British India.
The hundreds of passengers, according to thecanadianencyclopedia.ca, were not allowed on shore. For two months, they remained in the waters outside of Vancouver.
The storyboard calls the Komagata Maru incident “a clear example of racism from Canada’s past.
“For years leading up to 1914, the Canadian Government actively restricted immigration to Canada from India and Asia, favouring immigrants of European descent. These policies were deliberately exclusionary. Today, Surrey’s South Asian population is about 1/3 of the City’s total population, while 43% of Surrey residents are immigrants (2016 Census).”
Placed on the pedestrian path behind Strawberry Hill Hall, the new storyboard is located not far from Jarnail Singh’s Komagata Maru mural and commemorative street signs on 75A Avenue.
Notes the sign: “This storyboard, commemorative street signs, and the existing Komagata Maru mural encourage residents to reflect on this moment in Canadian history, and the systemic racism experienced by many Surrey residents in the past and present.”
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