May 23, 2023 marks the 109th anniversary of the Komagata Maru incident, and today we recognize and honour the great contributions of the Sikh, Muslim, and Hindu communities to British Columbia’s creative industries and beyond. British Columbians continue to reflect upon and recognize May 23 as Komagata Maru Remembrance Day. Read the proclamation here.
The Komagata Maru incident was a dark chapter in Canadian history where a ship carrying 376 British subjects from India including 340 Sikhs, 24 Muslims and 12 Hindus arrived in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet on May 23, 1914, seeking entry into Canada with hopes of a brighter future.
Canada’s restrictive and racist laws forced passengers to remain on board and live in unsafe and deteriorating conditions without access to medical aid often going days without food and water.
On July 23, 1914, the Komagata Maru was forced to sail back to India where those on board were labelled as political disruptors and 19 passengers were shot and killed by British Indian troops, numerous were injured, and many were jailed for years. Many descendants of these passengers immigrated to Canada settling in Vancouver and continued to fight against discriminatory laws including the right to work in a profession of their choosing, holding public office and the right to vote in 1947.