British Columbia

Police investigating vandalism of Komagata Maru memorial as possible hate crime

The Vancouver Police Department says it is investigating a possible hate crime after a memorial acknowledging a racist chapter in Canada's history was vandalized over the weekend.

Memorial highlights how the vessel was turned away in 1914 due to Canada's exclusion laws

White paint on a section of the Komagata Maru memorial in Vancouver's Coal Harbour neighbourhood, pictured on Aug. 22. (Martin Diotte/CBC News)

The Vancouver Police Department says it is investigating a possible hate crime after a memorial acknowledging a racist chapter in Canada's history was vandalized over the weekend.

On Sunday, the Komagata Maru memorial in the Coal Harbour neighbourhood was vandalized with white paint.

"Front-line officers and other specially trained investigators worked throughout the evening yesterday and will continue to gather evidence in this disturbing crime," VPD Sgt. Steve Addison said in a release.

"This investigation is a priority and we are committed to finding out who is responsible and why they did this."

Nearly 400 South Asian immigrants were aboard the Komagata Maru, which was anchored just off Coal Harbour in 1914, when it was turned away from Canada due to exclusion laws.

The white graffiti on the memorial included handprints that covered the names of the ship's occupants.

"It is disheartening that someone could show such disrespect to this important memorial," said Addison.

On Sunday, Raj Singh Toor with the Komagata Maru Society said vandalism like this should not happen in Vancouver.

"It's a very, very terrible incident and it's very sad," he said.

The Komagata Maru memorial was installed in 2013.

In 1914, the ship and its occupants waited for two months to dock in Vancouver's harbour before the vessel was forced to return to India with everyone on board. They included 340 Sikhs, 24 Muslims and 12 Hindus who lacked access to medical aid, food and water.

On May 23, 1914, the steamship Komagata Maru sailed into Vancouver's Coal Harbour carrying 376 passengers from India seeking refuge. They were denied. (CBC)

There have been several racist attacks in B.C. this year.

In July, two senior South Asian women were targeted by a couple throwing garbage and spewing racist insults while they visited a Surrey park with their grandchildren. 

Also last month, a South Asian security guard at a vaccination clinic was the target of a racist rant by an anti-vaccine protester.

And in April, a man was charged with incitement of hatred and mischief over anti-Asian graffiti in Vancouver's Chinatown.

Anyone with information about the vandalism to the Komagata Maru memorial is asked to contact the police.

A man in Vancouver who didn't want to be identified came to try and clean paint off the Komagata Maru memorial in Vancouver on Aug. 22, after it had been vandalized. (Chad Pawson/CBC News)

now