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‘Disgusting’: Vancouver’s Komagata Maru memorial vandalized with white handprints, graffiti

The memorial was installed to pay tribute to the 376 passengers aboard the Komagata Maru steamship
The Komagata Maru memorial was vandalized on Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021. (Jindi Singh/Twitter)

The Komagata Maru memorial was vandalized on on Sunday (Aug. 22) afternoon.

Jindi Singh, national director of Khalsa Aid Canada, posted about the vandalism to social media.

“Very saddened to see the Komagata Maru Memorial defaced with graffiti today,” Singh said. “Handprints all over the names of those who were on the ship.”

The memorial was installed in 2013 to pay tribute to the 376 passengers aboard the Komagata Maru steamship, who travelled from then-British India to Vancouver on May 23, 1914.

The people on board were mostly of Sikh heritage, but also included people of Muslim and Hindu faiths. Despite coming from a British colony, the passengers were not allowed to disembark from the ship due to racist policies of the day.

After two months of remaining on board the ship with little to no medical aid, food or water, the ship was forced to travel back to India where 19 were shot and killed and many others were jailed as political agitators.

The City of Vancouver made a formal apology to the victims in May 2021 and established Komagata Maru Remembrance Day, to be marked each year on May 23.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart slammed those responsible for the vandalism.

“This is disgusting and whoever did this is a coward. This memorial is about the perseverance of a community that has helped to build and shape our city,” Stewart said.

“Nothing can erase that. We will remove the paint and the strength of Indo-Canadians will remain.”

By Sunday evening, crews were washing away the graffiti.

Federal party leaders were quick to condemn the vandalism, with Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh all quick to denounce the graffiti.

Vancouver police said Monday morning that an investigation was launched immediately.

“This monument is an important memorial to the people who traveled here seeking a better life and were wrongfully turned away because of racist policies,” said Sgt. Steve Addison. “It is disheartening that someone could show such disrespect to this important memorial, and we’d like anyone with information to come forward.”

Anyone with information about the vandalism is asked to call police at 604-717-0613.

READ MORE: Vancouver mayor says sorry for city’s role in turning away South Asians in 1914


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