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In 1914, over three hundred British subjects from India were denied entry into Canada. One hundred years later their journey and its legacies are being shared across Metro Vancouver.

GENERATIONS, GEOGRAPHIES & ECHOES

On May 23rd, 1914, the Komagata Maru entered Burrard Inlet carrying 
376 passengers looking forward to starting their lives in Canada. The 
ship and those on board arrived despite the recent introduction of 
Canada’s discriminatory Continuous Passage Regulation, a law that 
required immigrants to Canada to arrive by a single, direct journey 
from their country of origin. Because no direct route between the Dominion of Canada and British 
India existed, this policy was a roundabout means to exclude Indian 
immigration and preserve — in the words of a popular song of the 
time — “White Canada forever.”

Like the Canadians on shore, all Komagata Maru passengers were 
subjects of the British Empire and many had fought for Britain, upholding the very freedoms they now desired. Upon arrival, the passengers were immediately detained by Canadian immigration authorities determined to keep the ship at anchor. Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet became the 
flashpoint for a standoff that gained international attention.

Their inability to land caused hardship for the passengers, who soon 
lacked food and water. The passengers were also denied access to 
medical attention, communication with their family and proper legal 
counsel. Their challenge to Canada’s right to deny their landing was 
delayed and eventually denied. On July 23, 1914, the Komagata Maru 
passengers were forced to leave Canada.

The history of this voyage of the Komagata Maru and its passengers 
has never been forgotten. The resistance of the passengers and their 
commitment to the idea of equality promised in a democratic country 
has continued to be inspiring. It has been referenced in freedom 
movements around the world. The Komagata Maru is not just a story 
of what happened in 1914. It is one chapter in a long struggle to create 
a Canada that resists racism. The story of the Komagata Maru is a 
story that all Canadians can relate to today.


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