The Legacy of the Komagata Maru

The Kamagata Maru was a high point in the racial tensions between the white majority and the non white minorities in Vancouver. It forced people to take sides and band together against each other. You were either pro Indian immigration or against it. It really showed how divided and racist Vancouver was at the time.

In response to the people on the Komagata Maru being extremely close to starving, the shore commitee which was a committee dedicated to the freedom and prosperity of the south asians within Vancouver raised 60,000 (1.43 million today) for the prosperity of those on board the Komagata Maru.  The white community also had a meeting and even passed laws dedicated to the one ship so that the passengers of the Komagata Maru couldn’t get on land and show how weak the white government was.

People came around the ship and yelled slurs.

Eventually a Canadian naval ship came and forced the Komagata Maru to take sail and go back to Asia. Once the ship was at the Indian port, 18 of the passengers were shot while the rest were imprisoned on count of conspiring against the British Empire.

This was an act of the British Empire oppressing the Indians by not letting them into the ‘white’ colony of Canada and silencing them when they wanted to speak back in India. The Brits wanted to silence their subjects for the prosperity of their colonies. Although one paper the Indians were equal with the Canadians, they were not treated this way.

The white Canadians were also against the letting on of the Indians at the time because the Canadians feared job loss and wanted Vancouver which had been about 30/30/30 native asian white until the completion of the railroad, to remain white as it had been ever since. The white Canadians succeeded at keeping the asians out and therefore did, for the longest of times, make sure that Canada was a white colony.

They did this unjustly as the crown in England deemed all subjects of the crown equal and ruled that the Indians in the Raj should be allowed to travel freely to Canada. The way that the Canadians managed to keep the asians out was by creating a law known as continuous journey which stated that people who travel between colonies can’t stop at ports which aren’t under British rule. This law meant that Indians couldn’t travel from the Raj to Canada due to the law and the lack of technology at the time.

The Canadian government eventually apologized for this but at first the apology wasn’t accepted because the apologizer, this time Harper didn’t apologize for everything and didn’t recognize that racism is still taking place. Trudeau fixed that and also put funding to revitalizing asian history in Canada.

You can learn more about the Komagata Maru with these websites.

Komagata Maru: With apologies to … (Maclean’s)

The Legacy of the Komagata Maru (UBC)

Komagata Maru: Why the apology matters, more than a century later (CTV News)

The racial legacy of the Komagata Maru

Reflecting on the Komagata Maru apology

The Komagata Maru, 107 years later

Come Again? The Komagata Maru Story

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