Posts tagged "indian"



The Komagata Maru story matters because

It makes you realize that multi-cultural means it’s white only true Canada

It relates to me the Reality of South Asian history in Canada

Struggle of South Asians in Canada

I need to know my history

I had no idea what my history is!

(via Komagata Maru)


376: number of passengers on Komagata Maru when it arrives in Vancouver Harbour 

   12: number of Hindus aboard Komagata Maru 
   24: number of Muslims aboard Komagata Maru 
   340: number of Sikhs aboard Komagata Maru 

90: number of people declared medically unfit to land 

20-24: number of people who claimed to have Canadian domicile and were allowed to disembark

$150,000: Amount of damages claimed by Gurdit Singh for Canada not allowing him to land and sell coal stored aboard Komagata Maru

15: Number of core members of Sshore Ccommittee, local South Asians who were mobilizing to support the Komagata Maru passengers 

500: ??Unknown: number of local South Asians present at meetings to support Komagata Maru passengers, held at the the Khalsa Diwan Society at Gurdwara 

$5,000: amount collected at once at first meeting at Gurdwara by local South Asians to support Komagata Maru passengers

$17,000: amount collected at future meetings by local South Asians to support Komagata Maru passengers 

150: number of immigration officials and police who attempted to board Komagata Maru on July 17, 1914 

$4,000: value of provisions Canadian government placed on board the Komagata Maru for the return trip 

2: number of months the Komagata Maru stayed in harbour off the coast of Vancouver

2: number of years shore committee struggled legally with government after Komagata Maru was forced to return to Asia

$3,000: further legal expenses of shore committee after Komagata Maru forced to return to Asia

6: number of months Komagata Maru passengers spent aboard 

via Brown Canada Project: Komagata Maru


The Komagata Maru incident involved a number of key players – individuals whose actions played a significant role impacting the lived experience of Komagata Maru passengers. These key players can be viewed within four three main groups:

  • Komagata Maru Passengers
  • Canadian Officials
  • Legal Personnel
  • Shore Committee Members

Each individual’s complete story is not captured here; instead these profiles provide snapshots of each key player, and some context of their lives. For some of these individuals, their profiles have become legacies by the memorialisation efforts of scholars, activists, community members and artists. 

For other individuals involved in the Komagata Maru incident, they remain unnamed or their stories are unknown. For example, little is known about many of the passengers. There is not enough information about the hundreds of South Asians already living in the Vancouver area who were passionate about supporting the Komagata Maru passengers. There is scarce documentation of the white allies who attended ing community meetings. For those who died upon their return to British occupied India, there must have been so many unanswered questions for their unnamed friends and families. For the 28 individuals who were unaccounted for after the Budge Budge (Baj Baj) incident, some like Gurdit Singh we know a lot about – but for others, where did their lives take them? 

With the intention of this website to invite readers to reflect on the broader impact of the Komagata Maru incident, this section asks you to interrogate how we remember the individual people in communities, how we write (or do not write) their stories.

Komagata Maru Passengers 

This is very short list of some passengers who played key roles in the departure of the Komagata Maru from Hong Kong, and its experience once in Canadian waters.

Gurdit Singh
Gurdit Singh was a successful businessman who decided to charter the Komagata Maru from Hong Kong after meeting with and speaking with other Indians there. Singh (sold tickets up until two days before the Komagata Maru’s departure, and was briefly held by officials for selling illegal tickets for what was deemed an illegal trip). Singh was a nationalist, who believed in an Independent India. At the Baj Baj (Budge Budge) incident, he escaped capture. After remaining a fugitive in India for several years, he finally surrendered after prompting by Mahatma Gandhi (whom he respected deeply) and served a five-year jail term in Punjab. It was after Singh’s prompting did the federal government of newly-independent India erect a plaque at Kolkata (then known as Calcutta) memorializing the Komagata Maru. 

Munshi Singh
Munshi Singh, one of the 376 passengers aboard the Komagata Maru, was selected as the representative for the test case. He was a Sikh farmer from Punjab, someone who was interested in migrating to Canada for the purposes of buying some property and farming. 

Canadian Officials
Government agents very obviously played a heavy role in the Komagata Maru incident. Both Hopkinson and Reid held very strong anti-South Asian views and prior to 1914, both had been actively pushing for exclusionary immigration. For Reid, his daughter felt (in the 1980s) that the way he was remembered was unfair1; for Hopkinson, an often-staged play by Sharon Pollock fictionalized his mixed-race heritage and his surveillance work, which could be described as internalized racism2.

Malcolm Reid 
Malcolm Reid was the Chief Immigration Officer of Vancouver during the Komagata Maru incident. Posted to the position with no experience, his proposals of how to expel the Komagata Maru contradicted even those of the federal government. He was explicit in his anti-Asian sentiments, and was motivated to use whatever force necessary to remove the ship and its passengers. For example, on June 24, 1914, Reid wired Ottawa to ask for permission to have the Komagata Maru passengers forced onto the S.S. Empress of India, which was departing the next day. The answer was no – an appearance in court (through a test case) is how the federal government wanted to proceed.

Martin Burrell 
Martin Burrell was the federal Minister of Agriculture at the time the Komagata Maru was stationed in Burrard Inlet. He became involved at the very end of the two month period, at the urging of Prime Minister Robert Borden. It was Burrell’s letter to Albert Howard McNeill dated July 21, 1914, that seemed to bring forward a compromise. In it, he refers to the Shore Committee and community members who had provided financial support. Burrell said that he would “urge that full and sympathetic consideration be given to those who deserve generous treatment. I must point out, however, that this is conditional on the passengers now on the Komagata Maru adopting a peaceable attitude, refraining from violence, and conforming to the law by giving to the captain control of his ship immediately, and agreeing to peaceably return to the port when they came.”13

William Charles Hopkinson 
William Charles (W.C.) Hopkinson was an immigration inspector at the time of the Komagata Maru. Working for the federal government since 1909, mostly based in British Columbia and working in the US as well, his focus was on the surveillance of Indian political activists. He was fully occupied with the Komagata Maru while it was in Burrard Inlet for two months. After the Komagata Maru was sent back, his role became important in the context of war – he provided information to officials in Canada and British India about Indian agitators on the Pacific coast who were supposedly plotting to return to India to “take up arms against the British while they were at war in Europe”4 Hopkinson was mixed-race (Anglo-Indian), which he both used in his work (he could understand Hindi and Punjabi) and denied outright. In 1914, he was killed by Mewa Singh at the Vancouver Court House. 

Legal Personnel 
In a hostile environment of British Columbia in 1914, two legal professionals took on the case of the Komagata Maru passengers. J. Edward Bird handled the bulk of the case. 

J. Edward Bird, solicitor 
J. Edward Bird was hired by the passengers of the Komagata Maru to represent the passengers as they lodged a legal challenge to the Orders in Council that were prohibiting them from being able to disembark. The government decided to only have one test case, and Bird was assigned the task of preparing his case very quickly. Bird made the argument on behalf of Munshi Singh (the test case) using constitutional terms, arguing that the passengers of the Komagata Maru were entitled to disembark and settle in Canada as British subjects. Unfortunately, the five judges disagreed with him, and the case was lost. Bird was a socialist, and was opposed to the anti-Asian sentiment around him in British Columbia – proving this by creating a space for Indian socialists to gather. 

Albert Howard MacNeill 
Partner to J. Edward Bird, he took over the Komagata Maru case in the latter stages after Bird received a threatening letter and opted to travel out of town. He was an established lawyer in Vancouver, with connections to many powerful individuals. He sent a personal cable to Conservative Prime Minister Robert Borden (McNeill was a member of the Conservative Party himself) to encourage him to think about the Komagata Maru situation beyond what he was told by immigration officials (like Reid and Stevens). 

Shore Committee Members 
While the Komagata Maru was forced to stay in Burrard Inlet, South Asian community members in the Vancouver area mobilized to support the passengers. The 15-member group, coming together initially at the Khalsa Diwan Society, was called the Shore Committee. The Shore Committee raised awareness, raised funds, spoke out about the exclusion, and was heavily involved in retaining legal representation for the Komagata Maru passengers. 

Hussain Rahim 
Hussain Rahim was one of the Shore Committee members, an active member of the Indian community in British Columbia, and the editor of the short-lived English newspaper The Hindustanee. Rahim spoke English, Hindi, Punjabi and Gujrati, and was vocal about his thoughts on the ways the governments of Canada and British Columbia treated Indians. Rahim was instrumental in mobilizing community members to support the passengers of the Komagata Maru. 

Bhag Singh 
Bhag Singh was one of the Shore Committee members, an active member of the Indian community in British Columbia, and Secretary of the Temple Management Committee at the Khalsa Diwan Society gurdwara. His own experience of challenging Canada’s immigration policy in 1911 meant that he was one of the very few Indians in Canada to have been able to be reunified with his wife and child. 

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Unhappy with portrayals of Native Americans in mainstream media, a group of students from South Dakota’s Rosebud Sioux Reservation created a video to show that their community is about more than alcoholism, broken homes and crime.

The students are visiting Washington, D.C., on Monday to lobby Congress for increased funding for schools on reservations.

Filmed in black and white, the student-produced video More Than That takes viewers through the hallways, classrooms and gymnasium of the Rosebud Sioux Reservation’s county high school.

Using their bodies as signposts, the students explain that they’re more than stock images of poverty, alcoholism and violence. With words drawn on their hands, arms and faces, they share the traits that describe who they really are: humor, intelligence, creativity — and the list goes on.

The point the students are trying to make, says English teacher Heather Hanson, is that they’re not victims.

The nonprofit National Association of Federally Impacted Schools invited the Lakota students to attend its winter conference Monday in Washington, D.C. While in town, the students will also lobby South Dakota’s congressional representatives.

posted by npr

Sh*t People Say to Natives (by PaperRocketProd)

The chairman of Canada’s truth and reconciliation commission says removing more than 100,000 aboriginal children from their homes and placing them in residential schools was an act of genocide.

Justice Murray Sinclair says the United Nations defines genocide to include the removal of children based on race, then placing them with another race to indoctrinate them. He says Canada has been careful to ensure its residential school policy was not “caught up” in the UN’s definition.

"That’s why the minister of Indian affairs can say this was not an act of genocide," Sinclair told students at the University of Manitoba Friday. "But the reality is that to take children away and to place them with another group in society for the purpose of racial indoctrination was — and is — an act of genocide and it occurs all around the world."

About 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Metis children were forced to attend the government schools over much of the last century. The last school closed outside Regina in 1996.

The $60-million truth and reconciliation commission is part of a landmark compensation deal between the federal government, the Crown and residential school survivors. It is about halfway through its mandate and has visited about 500 communities, where it has heard graphic details of rampant sexual and physical abuse.

The commission has taken 25,000 statements from survivors so far and has heard from about 100 people who worked in the schools, Sinclair said.

Their legacy has left an indelible impact on Canadian society, he added. The commission has heard stories of survivors continuing the cycle of abuse with their own children.

Even those who worked at the schools are not immune. Many of them were victims, too, and suffer lingering guilt and shame.

"We’ve had teachers come forward to us and spoken to the commission … about how they so hated the experience of teaching in a residential school that they quickly left," Sinclair said. "They never put the fact that they worked at a residential school on their resume and they always kept that fact hidden from everybody, even from their own families."

Just as children of school survivors suffer with their parents’ pain, so, too, do children of those who worked in the schools, Sinclair said. Children of staff members also attended the schools and still grapple with what they saw and experienced there. Some watched their parents become deeply depressed later in life as they came to realize what they had been a part of.

"In many ways, they also feel victimized by having been in residential schools. There is a great mixture of experiences here."

The commission is expected to release an interim report shortly about what it’s heard so far. But even halfway through its mandate, Sinclair said, it’s clear work will take much longer to complete.

There are between 200 million and 300 million government documents on residential schools policy and about 20 million photographs. The commission has only managed to copy about 14,000 photos for the record, he said.

Canada will have to work hard to undo the damage done by the schools long after the commission has finished its work, Sinclair suggested. Generations of children — both aboriginal and non-aboriginal — have been brought up on a curriculum that dismissed aboriginal culture and history as worthless and inferior.

Another consequence is that there is a spiritual void in many aboriginal communities, Sinclair added. Churches that once had strong congregations in aboriginal communities have moved out and elders who could pass on traditional spiritual teachings are no longer living.

"It took 130 years to create this problem. It’s probably going to take us 130 years to undo it."

Read more:

Not a form, it is genocide.


Most importantly, there are stories that define who we are and how we came to be ‘us’. Stories that have shaped our identities and continue to negotiate them as new stories take us to different destinations. This story is about ‘someone’ within me that I did not know even existed. A story about coming to Canada. A story about an unforeseen collision. A story that continues to weave its threads to this day.
Canadians always have questions. Specifically, ‘white’ Canadians always have questions that come with pre-packaged answers. Everywhere I go, I frequently get asked, “Where are you from”?

I generally reply, “I am Indian”, which is usually received with great confusion.

“You are Indian”!!!?

I can see the wheels of identity categorization churning in their heads and to avoid awkward silences and bring the conversation to an end, I follow up with, “Yes, Indian, as in from India.”

“Oh! So you are East-Indian. Why didn’t you say so”?

When I came to Canada, I had no idea that I was East-Indian. All my life I had considered myself to be Indian. I suddenly felt the weight of my new identity on my shoulders leaving me wondering if I was in the right temporal location. The identity ofEast-Indian comes from the time of British colonialism in India. They had established the East-India Company to manage trade affairs and it eventually became a part of the colonial enterprise. When I hear the term East-Indian, it automatically inscribes upon me the identity of still being a colonized subject. It seems like no one informed my interrogators that India gained its independence some seven decades ago.

I am a colonized time-traveller in Canada.

After spending some time in Canada, I started hearing horrendous comments about the ‘backwardness’ of Indians.

How they were lazy.

How they were drunks and unfit parents.

How they were living off welfare and spending the money on alcohol and drugs.

How Indian women were loose.

All of this infuriated me to no end and I wanted to find these Indians that people were talking about. Where are these Indians you speak of? Maybe if I could find them, I could find out what all this talk was all about. They are making all of us look bad. And then it all came crashing down.

In my first year of university (my third year in Canada), I had gone out to a restaurant with some of my dorm-mates. All of them ‘white’. We ordered our food and drinks and paid casual attention to a hockey game going on. As the evening progressed, my friend Tom introduced us to his friend Jared (who is ‘white’) who had come to join us. We had the usual introductions and as I said above, he asked me where I was from. To which I replied, “I am Indian.” We sat down and enjoyed our meals peppered with light conversation. After that, I got up to have a cigarette. As I put on my jacket with a cigarette dangling from my lips, Jared looked up to me and said,

“You must get cheap cigarettes, huh”?

I had no idea what that meant. He thought that I hadn’t heard him properly and went on to explain himself.

“I mean, cigarettes must be quite cheap on your reservation.”

For a nanosecond, I was completely dumbstruck. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. Suddenly, two different worlds collided without being asked.

He thought I was aboriginal.

My being was abruptly intertwined with aboriginal peoples’, without our consent, and a mistake of six centuries of colonial hubris was shaping who I was/am.

Let us rewind for a minute. The story of Columbus is well known. He sailed the high seas to search for India and landed in what is known as the ‘Americas’ in modern day linguistic currency. The peoples’ he encountered were labeled ‘Indian’ and Columbus continued to believe he had landed in India till his death bed. The identity of ‘Indian’ was/is violently inscribed onto the lands, bodies, languages and a multitude of aboriginal nations that were/are richly diverse.

Fast forward to present times and the label of ‘Indian’ is still being upheld by Canadian institutions and modern day racist vernacular. Aboriginal peoples’ are still being dehumanized and defined by the colonial legal framework of the ‘Indian’ Act. The immigration of ‘Indians from India’ threw a wrench in this neat tidy category of Other. There could not possibly be more than one ‘Indian’. A whole new twist to the ‘Indian’ problem was afoot.

No worries. An easy fix.

The ones coming from India are ‘East-Indians’.

Aboriginals are ‘Indians’ or ‘Red-Indians’ depending on the grade of racism one subscribes to.

East-Indians’ taken from India to the Caribbean during colonialism as slaves and/or indentured labourers are ‘West-Indians’.

Done and done.

My alleged East-Indianness is derived from two different colonial projects. One through the direct subjugation of my people’s and the other through the subjugation of aboriginal peoples’ of the Americas. It might not have been apparent above, but I was not offended that I was mistaken to be aboriginal.

I was, and still am, upset about the superimposition of a history of a diverse group of aboriginal peoples’ on my being to which I have no authority to represent.

I was, and still am, angered by the fact that my being was not under my control, and with the careless utterance of a label I was asked to bear the weight of pain that was not mine and could never be even if I wanted to shoulder some of it.

I was, and still am, enraged by the fact that I am continuously portrayed as a colonized subject and forced to fit within a colonial category of individuals that my forefathers died fighting against so that we could be free.

I was, and still am, disturbed to see that the only type of aboriginal person that can be imagined is one who lives on a reservation apparently living off the largesse of Canadian tax payers.

This seemingly benign account about identity-politics is one of the stories that has shaped me. It is one that has sharpened my senses to how colonialism still affects our lives in overt and covert ways. It is a story about ‘becoming Canadian’ and the swallowing of colonial baggage required in the process. It is about immigrants and aboriginal peoples’ caged in stratified colonial spaces that overlap at the behest of colonial masters. It is about the inextricable alliance between us in the anti-racist/anti-colonial struggle that needs to be nurtured and brought to the forefront.

I refuse to be East-Indian. I was never East-Indian and I never will be. I was born Indian and I will die as one. If these colonial labels are discarded by state institutions and in daily discourse, then maybe I will die as a Canadian.

by HarshZ (via The ‘Indian’ Problem! « It Is A Harsh World)

Ali Kazimi is a Toronto-based documentary filmmaker, a film professor at York University and author. His research interests include race, migration and history.

Ali’s productions have been shown at festivals around the world and have won over thirty national and international awards, including the Gemini Award for Best Social/Political Documentary.

Kazimi’s feature documentary, “Continuous Journey,” and upcoming book Undesirables, White Canada and the Komagata Maru investigate the Komagata Maru incident.  In 1914, a ship carrying 374 British India immigrants were detained at the Vancouver harbour.

Passengers aboard the ship challenged the Continuous Passage Act that was invoked in 1908 in an effort to curb Asian immigration to Canada. After a two-month stalemate the ship was escorted out of the harbour by the Canadian military and sailed back to India.

   (via Ali Kazimi – Racism Free Ontario Initiative)