British Columbia

Komagata Maru memorial gets new plaque

The new plaque, in three languages, was added to Vancouver's memorial which was built in 2012 and follows a public apology by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the House of Commons in May.

Unveiled by defence minister Harjit Sajjan, plaque notes South Asian Canadians' early struggle for justice

This plaque was added to the Komagata Maru memorial in Vancouver's Coal Harbour on Sunday, August 7, 2016 by the federal government to recognize the 1914 incident as an event of national historic significance. (Meera Bains/CBC)

The site of the Komagata Maru monument in Vancouver's Coal Harbour has a new plaque that recognizes the incident as an event of national historic significance.

The new plaque, in English, French and Punjabi, marks the hardship endured by South Asian Canadians affected by the incident in 1914, when the ship reached Vancouver via Hong Kong and Japan carrying hundreds of hopeful immigrants.

It was denied entry to the country and passengers were forced to stay aboard for two months, while in Vancouver waters.

Federal Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, who unveiled the plaque, emphasized that the apology made in the House of Commons in May by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was a crucial step in history of the incident.

"And it shows, not just an example for the Komagata Maru, but all the other incidents of our past," he said. "It is a testament that we must continue to learn and make those right decisions as we move forward."

Vancouver's Komagata Maru memorial was built in 2012 and the new plaque summarizes the incident, adding that it, "continues to resonate in our history and is a symbol of the early struggle of South Asian Canadians for justice and equality."

Meanwhile, Harbhajan Gill, president of the Komagata Maru Heritage Society, says despite the memorial, apoplogy and plaque, Canadians still have more to learn about, and from, the tragedy of the Komagata Maru.

"There's still lots of racism, it happens every day, and I think the only way we can do it, is just teach each other how to be the next door nice neighbour and try to explain who we are and where we came from," he said,

"You know we're all Canadian, and just try to understand each other's issues."

Gill says he'd like to see the story of the incident added to the public school curriculum, and displayed in a museum.     

with files from Meera Bains.