Passengers aboard Komagata Maru in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet, 1914 - Library and Archives Canada image

Passengers aboard Komagata Maru in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet, 1914 - Library and Archives Canada image

Abbotsford council is asked to rename street in memory of Komagata Maru victims

Most of 376 the passengers aboard ship were denied entry into Canada in 1914

Abbotsford city council has requested that staff prepare a report into a request to rename Fairlane Street in memory of the victims of the 1914 Komagata Maru incident that resulted in the deaths of 20 citizens of India.

Council at its executive meeting on Feb. 22 was unanimous in its support of such a move, but the protocol in place to rename streets requires a staff report.

The report will look at why the name “Fairlane” was initially chosen, and the costs of renaming it.

But councillors said if Fairlane doesn’t work for the renaming, another street should be chosen.

The 1914 incident involved the Japanese steamship Komagata Maru, on which 376 people from Punjab Province in British India attempted to immigrate to Canada, landing in Vancouver in May of that year.

Most were denied entry and, for 63 days, the passengers stayed on the ship with dwindling food and water, and were forced to return to India.

Within hours of disembarking, 20 of the passengers were killed in an encounter with British Indian police and troops.

Abbotsford resident Lakhwinder Jhaj appeared by video to make the street-renaming request. She told council that Surrey has renamed one of its streets – 75A Avenue – “Komagata Maru,” while there is a monument at Coal Harbour in Vancouver and storyboard signs at Social Heart Plaza in Delta.

RELATED: Surrey to rename street to commemorate Komagata Maru victims

RELATED: B.C. premier says lessons to learn from past racism during response to pandemic

Jhaj said doing something similar in Abbotsford would be “a positive declaration of moving forward.”

She said it makes sense to rename Fairlane Street because it borders the Gur Sikh Gurdwara (temple), which, as North America’s oldest gurdwara, has been designated a national historic site.

Jhaj said the South Asian community would be “honoured and humbled” to have a street named in memory of the Komagata Maru.

RELATED: Abbotsford wrestling coach attends historic apology for Komagata Maru incident

Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong, also appearing by video, backed Jhaj’s request. He introduced a motion in the House that resulted in a formal apology about the Komagata Maru incident from the B.C. government in May 2008.

He said there are “direct connections” between the 1914 incident and Abbotsford, whose citizens were among those fighting in support of the passengers stuck aboard the ship.

“The connection between the pioneers that are today recognized as having contributed so much to build Abbotsford over the last century and the pioneers that never were, because they weren’t allowed in the country, is a very real and tangible one,” he said.

Coun. Kelly Chahal said the Komagata Maru incident is “something we should never forget.” She said renaming a street can help “continue the conversation,” and there should be more consideration of such gestures in the future as new development occurs.

Coun. Patricia Ross said it is important that the incident is remembered and the people honoured.

“Also, because it creates discussions about racism and why this happened, and what’s happening today and how we can all do better,” she said.

Mayor Henry Braun said such an acknowledgment is overdue.

“This is a significant event, and it’s been recognized across Canada and British Columbia, and I think we for sure need to do this as well,” he said.

Surrey resident Raj Singh Toor, vice-president of the Descendants of the Komagata Maru Society, said on Friday (Feb. 26) that he was surprised to see that the matter had come before council.

Toor first approached the city two years ago and has had ongoing communication requesting that a street or park in Abbotsford be named in memory of the victims of the Komagata Maru incident.

“This would be greatly appreciated, not only by descendants of the passengers, and by all Sikhs in Canada, but by every Canadian who believes in treating all humans with dignity and respect,” he wrote in an email dated Feb. 25, 2019.

Toor, whose grandfather was among those aboard the Komagata Maru, said many Abbotsford residents helped give food, water and medications to passengers. They also contributed in trying to lease the ship in an attempt to keep it from being sent back to India, he said.

An email from the city indicated that he would be invited to speak before council, and Toor said he is disappointed that did not happen. But he said he is thankful that the victims of the Komagata Maru will be recognized in Abbotsford.



vhopes@abbynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

history

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Raj Singh Toor, vice-president of the Descendants of the Komagata Maru Society, posed with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in May 2016 when the federal government issued a formal apology for the Komagata Maru incident.

Raj Singh Toor, vice-president of the Descendants of the Komagata Maru Society, posed with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in May 2016 when the federal government issued a formal apology for the Komagata Maru incident.

Just Posted

Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld has called for the resignation of B.C.’s Minister of Education, Jennifer Whiteside. He made the call during a speech in Vancouver on April 10, 2021, in a rally for a parent embroiled in legal battles surrounding his child’s transition.
Chilliwack school trustee calls for B.C.’s minister of education to resign

Barry Neufeld spoke at rally for jailed father in Vancouver, calling SOGI 123 a ‘dangerous experiment’

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

Photo courtesy of Abbotsford Police Department.
‘Vehicle Maintenance 101 for Teens’ to be hosted by Abbotsford Police traffic officers

Virtual meetups with Q&A period held on April 23, May 11, May 25

Stock photo from Unsplash.com
Free online workshops on ‘advance care planning’ hosted in Abbotsford

3 sessions hosted by Abbotsford Hospice Society and Association for Healthy Aging

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read