Indo-Canadian Community Projects

Photo described below
Passengers on board the Komagata Maru ship in Vancouver Harbour in 1914

The Komagata Maru steamed into Vancouver in May 1914. Its passengers, mostly Sikhs from Punjab, India and all British subjects, challenged Canada’s Continuous Journey clause, which was put in place in part to limit immigration from non-European countries. After two months under difficult conditions, the ship and most of its passengers were forced to return to India where, in a subsequent clash with British soldiers, 19 passengers died.

South Asians in Canada: Building Our Legacy

Recipient: Council of Agencies Serving South Asians, Toronto

A website and a booklet were created to present the history of the Komagata Maru incident. The project used creative writing, theatre, and digital-media storytelling to engage youth.

The project’s main purpose was to educate Canadians, including newcomers, immigrants and youths, on the history of the South Asian communities in Canada through recognition and remembrance of the Komagata Maru incident and the impact of immigration restrictions, raising awareness of the challenges South Asians face upon immigrating to Canada.

Dis-Immigration: Stemming the Flow from India, 1900 to 1914

Recipient: Grayhound Information Services. Metcalfe, Ontario

This 30-minute high-definition documentary describes Canada’s restrictions on immigration from India in the early 1900s. Concentrating on the years 1900 to 1914, it examines the political and social developments that affected Indian immigrants from 1902, when Sikhs travelled across Canada to attend the coronation of King Edward VII to the 1914 Komagata Maru incident. Based on extensive research in Canadian archives and stories from descendents of Indian immigrants, this documentary shows how politicians and governments, encouraged by some Canadians, imposed restrictions on immigration from India.


Commemorative Monument and Museum Exhibit

Recipient: Khalsa Diwan Society, Vancouver

Erecting the first public monument dedicated to the Komagata Maru incident in Vancouver’s Harbour Green Park, the society collaborated with the Vancouver Parks Board. A 6.5-acre waterfront park overlooking Coal Harbour, Harbour Green Park is the closest point of land to where the ship, carrying 376 South Asian passengers, was anchored for two months in 1914.

The Khalsa Diwan Society also created the first public museum dedicated to the Komagata Maru incident. Housed at the society’s building in Vancouver, the museum showcases the full story of the incident, including biographies of the people on the ship and the people involved in the story, immigration policies in the 1900s, the short- and long-term aftermath of the incident, and Canada today, focusing on Indo-Canadian experiences.

The Komagata Maru Era — Book

Recipient: Peripheral Visions Film and Video Inc., Toronto

Peripheral Visions produced an illustrated, hardcover book to bring to life the societal, cultural, political and religious aspects of the story of the Komagata Maru. The text of The Komagata Maru Era is based on the transcript of the award‑winning film Continuous Journey. High‑resolution scans from archival film footage were printed for the first time to expand the limited repository of photographs of the events surrounding the Komagata Maru while it was in Vancouver harbour.

The first book to offer a South Asian‑Canadian perspective on the history of the Komagata Maru, the book offers all Canadians, including young people and Canadians of South Asian descent, a full account of the story of the Komagata Maru. Copies were distributed free to schools, universities, colleges and community centres with high concentrations of people of South Asian origin.

Reflections of a Century of South Asian Settlement in Canada — Book

Recipient: Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society, Surrey, British Columbia

The society published a revised edition of Beyond the Komagata Maru: Race Relations Today, with a focus on the education system and the academic community. The book includes updated and new content, and was translated into Punjabi.

As part of preparation for the book, members of the South Asian community took part in workshops to contribute their personal accounts, family histories and pictures related to the Komagata Maru incident and their experiences immigrating to British Columbia. The book reflects the perspectives of people from different ethnic groups and different walks of life as they look back at this incident. The book was made available to schools, public libraries, community centres and the library in the society’s seniors’ complex.


The Komagata Maru Incident: An Interactive Online Learning Tool

Recipient: Simon Fraser University, Vancouver

SFU created a comprehensive website about the Komagata Maru incident, featuring interactive tools and learning modules. The website tells about this important episode in Canadian history to the Indo-Canadian community, educators, students, researchers and all Canadians. The project compiled documents from the national, British Columbia and Vancouver archives.

A key feature of the website is the integration of primary source materials from Hugh Johnston’s book The Voyage of the Komagata Maru, an authoritative text about the incident, which contains papers, legal documents and photos. In addition, supplementary materials from or relating to that period were digitized — books, photos, interviews, poetry, novels and artwork — from public and private collections. Also included are an online index to personal papers, photos, reminiscences of the South Asian community, and links to related online resources.


The Komagata Maru Project — Play

Recipient: Toronto Festival of Arts, Culture and Creativity (Luminato), Toronto

Luminato partnered with Ravi Jain, an award-winning Indo-Canadian theatre director, and his company, Theatre Why Not, to develop a drama about the Komagata Maru incident. The play debuted in February 2012, performed in English, with Hindi and Punjabi elements.

Inspired in part by the documentary Continuous Journey by Ali Kazimi, the play examines the history of Canada’s immigration policies and the stories behind the changing relationship between India and Canada. A cast of five to eight performers of diverse backgrounds incorporate movement, music, and drama into the play. It tells the story of the Komagata Maru from a South Asian perspective.


Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund

The Government of Canada established the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund to support projects that commemorate the experience of all affected communities during that period. The fund is managed by the Shevchenko Foundation.

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