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.

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 a city 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

 

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

Just Posted

Cathy Grace, principal of Parkside Centennial, and Susan Cairns, executive director of the Langley School District Foundation, show off a treat donated to the staff with the school mascot. (Ryan Uytdewilligen/Aldergrove Star)
PHOTOS: Leadership program members deliver cake and snacks to Parkside Elementary

$1,250 was raised by the four group members who wanted to help feed hungry students

Peterson, owner of Velocity Cycling in Walnut Grove, said it’s still hard to get enough bikes and parts, more than a year into the pandemic-inspired cycling boom. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Langley bike shops still swamped by would-be riders

It can be months to order a simple new bicycle due to COVID-19

Legion branch 265 president Doug Hadley shows off the green space where food service can continue via outdoor dining. (Ryan Uytdewilligen/Aldergrove Star)
Aldergrove legion branch #265 preparing to open patio dining on back lawn

Branch president Doug Hadley said COVID-19 restriction have hurt clientele

.
LETTER: Glaciers disappearing faster than in previous decades, Langley student writes

Grade 7 students at Gordon Greenwood Elementary were tasked with writing about climate change.

Pilots from the Canadian Museum of Flight in Langley were unable to take part in the actual Vimy Ridge centennial tribute in France in 2017, and similarly they were grounded today – the 103rd anniversary of the battle. This time due to weather conditions. (Canadian Museum of Flight/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Vimy Ridge flyby tribute just not in the cards?

This time, for a different reason, Canadian Museum of Flight pilots couldn’t take to the air – again

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

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)
B.C. 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

Emergency crews on scene after a small plane crashed in a grassy area on the northeast side of Boundary Bay Airport Saturday morning (April 10). A freelancer said the plane caught fire and one person was transported to hospital by BC Emergency Health Services. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
1 taken to hospital after plane crash at Metro Vancouver airport

Plane appears to have suffered ‘significant’ damage, says freelancer

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

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

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

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, was filming near Prospect Lake in Saanich last month. (Photo courtesy Fred Haynes)
Province announces $150,000 towards film studio, fulfilling B.C. NDP promise

Investment to fund movie studio feasibility study at Camosun College

Most Read