On May 23 in Canada, we remember the day that the Komagata Maru steamship arrived in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet in 1914.
Like many immigrants who made their way to Canada’s shores before and since, the passengers on board the Komagata Maru carried with them the hopes and dreams of creating a better life for themselves and their families. Instead, the majority of the passengers-who were Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus of South Asian origin-were told that they would not set foot on Canadian soil, due to immigration policies based on racism and discrimination.
For two months, the Komagata Maru sat in Vancouver’s harbour. Many passengers went days without food or water. Despite the tireless efforts of local South Asian communities, the ship was ultimately forced to return to India, where many passengers were imprisoned and some killed.
This act of discrimination remains a dark chapter in Canada’s history and is why, in 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a formal apology in the House of Commons for the Government of Canada’s role in the Komagata Maru incident.
Today, as we take a moment to acknowledge this tragic event, we are also mindful why we must always stand against racism, discrimination and hate.
As Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion, I encourage everyone to honour the memory of those whose lives were changed by the Komagata Maru incident and to reflect on how we can continue to help build a more equitable and just society.