Wednesday , August 17 2022

Name of man behind Comagata Maru incident removed from Vancouver federal building


A federal government building in Vancouver no longer bears the name of the local politician behind the infamous Komagata Maru event.

Members of parliament officially removed Harry Stevens' name from the Service Canada building at Quebec Street and East 10th Avenue Friday, marking the first time a federal building has changed its name in B.C.

"Today is about acknowledging our history: learning about it and swearing to never allow the evils of the past to happen again," said Harjit Sajjan, Minister of National Defense and Vancouver South MP.

VARU: (May 18, 2016) Vancouver building named after leading figure in Komagata Maru incident

In 1914, the Komagata Maru steamer arrived in Vancouver with 376 Indian passengers, almost all Sikhs seeking to emigrate to Canada.

After leaving only 20 passengers to disembark, the ship was returned to India, where the British authorities were expelled by the passengers. Nineteen Sikhs were killed, and dozens more were imprisoned.

At the time, Canadian immigration laws prohibited entry for most Indians, despite both countries sharing space under the British Empire.

Vancouver building named after man behind Komagata Maru decision

One of the most ardent champions of the law was Stevens, who was the Conservative Member of Parliament for the then riding in Vancouver City from 1911 to 1917, and would continue to represent the city in the Vancouver Center riding until 1930.

In 1914, historical accounts said that he directed much of his energy to countering the "Asian threat to Canada's future as" a country of white. "

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has apologized on behalf of the Canadian government for the 2016 incident.

Justin Trudeau formally apologizes for a Komagata Maru event

But Stevens' name remained in the Vancouver building, serving as a painful reminder to the South Asian community and descendants of the victims of Komagata Maru.

"Removing the name of Harry Stevens from the federal building will help educate the community and remind us of Canada's unique makeup," said Raj Toor with the Descendants of Komagata Maru Society, whose grandfather was one of the passengers on that ship.

"Although it cannot be justified by past mistakes, I hope it will help connect Canadians with their past or build a more peaceful and tolerant tomorrow."

FRAMEWORK: (May 18, 2016) Trudeau apologizes for Komagata Maru incident

Naveen Girn with the South Asian Canadian Cultural Society pointed out that Stevens ironically helped historians document the history of the Comagata Maru incident with their writings, speeches and spy documents from the time.

"Consider this idea of ​​a man so racist, who had that power because he was chosen to realize his racist beliefs, as a community and as academics, we depend on his record to tell this important story," he said.

The removal came with the emergence of a new mural on the side of the building that illustrates the tragedy, along with an acknowledgment of the indigenous peoples who provided food and water to the locked passengers.

WORD: (July 31) Komagata Maru Way revealed in Surrey to honor victims

"[This mural] it is an opportunity to calculate that colonial history from what the written word can be, and recently to speak the oral history and oral traditions of communities, "Girn said.

"There will now be a marker for this common relationship on this building."

Speakers, who included other members of parliament of Indian descent, said the removal is another step towards reconciling and promoting new policies for inclusion.

"So far, we look back and look at the decisions made a hundred years ago and say, 'What did they think? "We need to stand up to make sure that our bosses don't make decisions so our grandchildren don't look at us and say, 'What did they think? That's why this is important.'

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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