Recognizing the Komagata Maru Incident

Recently my class and I went on a field study to learn more in depth, and in a more hands-on way about the Komagata Maru. We visited a Komagata Maru museum, it was in a Sikh temple. Then we stoped for lunch before heading out on a walking tour of the Punjabi market. This trip is part of a set of 6 outings where we learn about the different types of oppression happening in Canada, and how those things were apologized for, if they were at all. 

The Komagata Maru was a ship full of Punjabi men age 18-30. In 1914 the passengers were aboard the ship coming from Hong Kong to Canada, specifically a BC port. According to this site, a lot of them were looking to come here to earn higher wages and bring back money to their families back home. When they arrived none of the passengers were allowed ashore, aside from a few returning residents. These people had been at sea for almost two months, and were now not allowed to go on shore. As time went on the Canadian government was changing its laws and policies as to get the ship to leave. At points they were limiting the ships communication with the outside world, blocking attempts to take their case to Canadian government and refusing to supply food to ship unless they were in very desperate times. Eventually they got to have their case looked at, through much hard work, but it was ruled in favour of Canada. After 2 months of struggling for the right to come on land and live in Canada, they were sent back home. When they arrived back in India there were troubles when they arrived, shots were fired and 20 of the passengers were killed, the rest were rounded up and put into prison. If you want to learn more you can visit this site.


This event was something that was quickly forgotten by many Canadians, but was remembered by many South-Asians. Even today it is remembered as an important day, as it is remembered as more than just the event that took place. It represents the struggles they faced and how they fought for their rights. This is why a big public apology was so important, it’s not just an apology for that one event, it represented so much more to the people. The apology would be a recognition of the wrong doings of the Canadian government and the unfair way they were treating the South-Asian communities. When the apology did finally come out in 2016, it was seen as a turning point and a place to start the recognition that was needed for this event and all it represents.

Its not just the government that needs to recognize and come to terms with what happened, Canadian citizens should also learn of their racist past. People need to be aware of the history we have and how it affected all these people, and still does. At the bottom of this note, I mention people calling for this to be taught in all schools. This could be a good step in understanding these events, and educating all our citizens on what happened. People should grow up understanding that we come from a racist past, but that does not mean we need to continue on like that.

As a collective I think people should start looking at the bigger picture. These events weren’t just a one time thing, there are many ways in which south-Asian people were discriminated against. We should be able to look at the Komagata Maru incident and see it for not just what it is, but what it symbolizes to many communities. It can be seen as a turning point, where people started fighting back more. I think we should be able to look at it and see the fight they put in, even through all the hard times they were going through, and the change that eventually came with the fight they put in.