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Komagata Maru exhibit opens at Surrey Museum

The Komagata Maru arrived in Burrard Inlet on May 23, 1914. This picture was taken on the first day the Komagata Maru landed and depicts the passengers excited to arrive in Vancouver. At the top of the picture with his hands outstretched and holding a pair of binoculars is Gurdit Singh, who chartered the ship.    - Photo courtesy City of Vancouver Archives
The Komagata Maru arrived in Burrard Inlet on May 23, 1914. This picture was taken on the first day the Komagata Maru landed and depicts the passengers excited to arrive in Vancouver. At the top of the picture with his hands outstretched and holding a pair of binoculars is Gurdit Singh, who chartered the ship.
— image credit: Photo courtesy City of Vancouver Archives

An extensive exhibit marking the 100th anniversary of the Komagata Maru's arrival on B.C.'s shores opens at the Surrey Museum tomorrow (Feb. 11).

Echoes of the Komagata Maru: 1914-2014 features interviews with direct descendants of the steamship's passengers, first-hand accounts of the boat's arrival in Burrard Inlet, and images, video and sound clips from Surrey youth on the importance of the Komagata Maru incident today and issues that persist.

The Komagata Maru was a Japanese ship carrying 376 people of South Asian descent that was barred entry into B.C. by Canadian immigration officers in May 1914.

The ship's passengers, who had valid passports, were challenging Canada's discriminatory Continuous Passage Regulation which stated all immigrants must come directly from their country of origin. Because no direct route between India and Canada existed at the time, the policy was viewed as a way to block Asian immigration, despite India and Canada both being part of the British Empire at the time.

The ship sat off the coast of Vancouver for weeks with the passengers deprived of food and water. All but 20 were deported two months after their arrival and the ship was forced to return to India.

Surrey Museum is among eight institutions across the Lower Mainland to collaboratively mark the century anniversary in a project called Komagata Maru 100. Other partners are the Surrey Art Gallery, the Khalsa Diwan Society (Ross Street Temple), Museum of Vancouver, Simon Fraser University (library), Surrey Public Libraries, Progressive Intercultural Services Society (PICS), and Vancouver Maritime Museum. Each will present a unique perspective and programming to increase awareness, dialogue and understanding about the foundations of Canadian multiculturalism.

Echoes of the Komagata Maru: 1914-2014 is on display from Feb. 11 to July 12. The museum is located at 17710 56A Ave. For information, call 604-592-6956.

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