Change in Immigration law and Komagata Maru Incident

By Deepika Choudhary

Komagata Maru—

A Japanese ship was chartered by Gurdit Singh from India to Vancouver containing 376 Indians, among whom 340 were Sikhs, 24 Muslims and 12 Hindus. The ship entered Vancouver on May 23, 1914, by crossing through Hongkong and Shanghai, but the ship was not allowed to arrive in port. While, the ship remained posted there from May 23 to July 23, 1914. Moreover, out of 376 Indians, only 20 were successful to land in Vancouver by showing their residence Status. This incident of being denied entrance to Indian immigrants into Canada upon their arrival in Vancouver is remembered as “Komagata Maru.”

Moreover, this is the not the end of injustice done to them, when the ship reached back to India (Calcutta) on September 27, British army (as India was under British rule) killed 19 passengers and imprisoned the remaining. The occurrence is known as “the Budge Budge Riot”.
The 100th anniversary of Komagata Maru was observed on May 23, 2014. On 26 May, 2014, Canada Post issued the stamp of about 31mm x 38mm on the Komagata Maru to honour the centenary of the Kamagata, which was considered as a black day in the history of Canada. The releasing of the stamp was the sort of realising the wrong done in the past .Even the Punjab government (India) has not taken such a big step to show respect to the people of that incident. However,issuance of a stamp by Canada post is a kind of undo to the injustice done 100 years ago. This incident is relevant as it embarks on the biggest change in the Immigration law and thinking of the Canadian government.

Earlier Law

In order to end the Brown invasion, the Canadian government passed the Continuous Passage Act in 1908, according to which if an Indian wanted to come to Canada, he has to come via direct passage. In addition to this, $200 per person fee was set as the requirement to enter British Columbia, Canada. This act was hardship to the brown immigrants keeping in mind the money and distance from Canada to India. Moreover, they made Asian Exclusion Act to stop the entry of the Asian Immigrants in 1908.

Both the federal and provincial government of British Columbia felt sorry for the incident of the Komagata Maru. The monument in the memory of the Komagata Maru was made public on July 23, 2012.Upon being acknowledged as the part of Canadian history, many books, documentary and plays were made on the incident of Komagata Maru.

Present law

Canadian immigration law has traveled a long distance from the Komagata Maru incident to the present time.The Canadian government is opening more and more avenues for people from different countries to settle in Canada. The recent relaxing of federal skilled category and increasing the number of occupations in the occupation list is a preset example. Canada is now being recognized as a cosmopolitan country, with minority communities from different countries being equally respected.

About the Author

Paralegal Student
Communications Students.

3 Comments on "Change in Immigration law and Komagata Maru Incident"

  1. For a contemporary parallel of the Komagata Maru case, see Fatima Cadr’s post here.

    There are also some interesting insights to be gained from contemporary legal cases during the same era of the Komagata Maru, which I’ve detailed here.

  2. Dhanvir Sohal | June 9, 2014 at 12:01 am |

    As you mentioned, the Canadian government passed the Act in 1908 in which immigrating to Canada was allowed on legal basis with the payment of $200 per person. This act represented a barrier to the potential immigrants from India and other Asian countries, to avoid “brown invasion.” It is evident that discrimination based on racial profile existed in the Canadian history until recent events opposed it such as Komagata Maru in 1914. The issue of discrimination was addressed post this event in 1982 when the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms became a part of the Canadian constitution and prohibited discriminating on the basis of religion and race. Thereby, I think this event and many other events in the Canadian history shifted a huge change in the immigration laws. The events such as these formed what we now know Canada as a “multicultural society.”

  3. You might also be interested in Faisal Bhaba’s The Komagata Maru Remembered.

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