'A happy day': Inkster Park neighbours toast renamed park honouring history of Komagata Maru
Area advocates say renaming a first step to development of green space, historical markers
Residents of the Inkster Park area celebrated a long-awaited milestone event on Saturday — one which saw an important piece of their shared history officially commemorated in Winnipeg.
The official renaming of public green space along Singh Trail from Singh Trail Park to Komagata Maru Park comes just shy of a year since a number of residents protested at the Manitoba Legislature over the lack of promised park development there.
In the intervening months, residents and supporters lobbied city hall to officially change the name of the park. Council voted unanimously to do so on April 28.
About 75 people, including politicians of all levels of government, gathered to note the occasion, unveil a new sign and celebrate with prayers, food and Bhangra music.
"It is definitely a happy day," said Gurjeet Kaur. Kaur is one of several community advocates who worked for the park renaming — and will continue to for amenities such as play structures, lighting and historical markers denoting the details behind the Komagata Maru incident.
The 1914 display of intolerance saw the government of the day turn away a Vancouver-landed ship carrying hundreds of South Asian migrants, most of whom were Sikhs.
Nearly all of the 376 passengers were denied entry and the ship sat in the harbour for two months. It was ultimately forced to return to India and was met by British soldiers.
Twenty passengers were killed and others jailed following an ensuing riot.
The incident holds deep significance for the Sikh community and led to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally apologizing in the House of Commons in 2016 for Canada's role in it.
Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux said Saturday the apology was "something that was long overdue" and the renamed park would help to ensure what happened isn't forgotten.
"The Komagata Maru incident — it should be an educational opportunity for all of us to really appreciate," he said. "For today, let's just appreciate the unveiling of a very special park."
"We should be talking about the Komagata Maru incident in our school curriculum," said Manitoba Liberal MLA Cindy Lamoureux, Kevin's daughter.
Raj Singh Toor, whose grandfather was a passenger on the ship, addressed the crowd via video conference. "We can't undo the past but we can move forward and leave a legacy for future generations by educating them about the past," he said. Toor is the vice president and spokesperson for Canada's Descendants of the Komagata Maru Society.
"We are all richer when we remember how special it is to have so many different ethnic communities living together. I hope that it will help to connect Canadians, Winnipeg residents with their past to build a more peaceful and tolerant tomorrow."
Renaming park 'first initial step,' councillor says
The city officially naming the park was an important step as it now can allow the residents to seek out fundraising opportunities to help grow the amenities, Kaur said.
"So this is a stepping stone," she said.
"At least now we have a name — we can at least now look forward to getting some grants put in with the city, look forward to support from the neighbourhood, councillors and other MPs around to see if we can get some historical things set up here."
Coun. Vivian Santos (Point Douglas) hosted the event, and was credited for helping the residents stickhandle the process to request the renaming.
In a statement issued prior to the ceremony, Santos thanked people in the area for being patient.
"The renaming of this public green space is the first initial step in our collaborative efforts to continue to build a beautiful and memorable park which respects and values the tragic event that occurred," she said.