“I would like to say thank you to the City of New Westminster, Respected Mayor and Councillors for recognizing the Komagata Maru passengers and passed the Motion unanimously the naming the Q to Q Ferry docks in Queensborough and downtown in commemoration of the Komagata Maru. This report also provides Council with contextual information surrounding City connections to this history and recommends that interpretation of the Komagata Maru history accompany the naming of these civic assets and with an amendment to also name a trail connected to the Queensborough dock in commemoration of the Komagata Maru behalf of the Descendants of the Komagata Maru Society request which was written by me August 19 2019. I am glad to be part of making this happen.”
The Komagata Maru Society consists of 15 families all over Canada who are direct descendants of the passengers (children, grandchildren, or great grandchildren). The South Asian community supports us because we are the ones who suffered in losing loved ones and deeply shared the pain of our parents, grandparents, or great grandparents being rejected by Canada in 1914.
On August 19, 2019, I wrote an email requesting that the City of New Westminster Council recognize the suffering of the Komagata Maru passengers. I described the painful ordeal suffered by the passengers of the Komagata Maru.
About 2000 South Asian families lived in BC in 1914, and many of these families lived in New Westminster. The local community helped the stranded passengers of the Komagata Maru by giving them food, water, and medication. There was even an attempt by the community to try to lease the ship in an attempt to keep it from being sent back.
On October 7, 2019, Respected Councillor Chinu Das brought forward the Komagata Maru recognition motion. I spoke for the motion, sharing my grandfather’s and the other Komagata Maru passengers’ painful story. I requested that the Council name a park, street or other civic asset in memory of the Komagata Maru passengers. The council then passed unanimously a motion “THAT staff report on the connection of New Westminster to the Komagata Maru incident. In particular, the report should provide documentation of the support the New Westminster South Asian community provided to the passengers of the Komagata Maru.” The mover of the motion, Councillor Das, advised that the verification of this history could lead to the naming of a city asset after the Komagata Maru.
On the March 1, 2021, the City of New Westminster received the report, prepared by New Westminster Manager of Museums and Heritage Services, Robert McCullough. This report recommends the naming of the QtoQ Ferry docks in Queensborough and Downtown in commemoration of the Komagata Maru. This report also provides Council with contextual information surrounding City connections to this history and recommends that interpretation of the Komagata Maru history accompany the naming of these civic assets.
I spoke at this Council meeting, again sharing the painful history of the Komagata Maru. I thanked the Council for its work on the report, mentioning that actions such as these go a long way in helping to heal scars of racism that are felt through the generations and through the centuries.
Furthermore, this naming process is a great reminder for New Westminster residents about our rich ethnic heritage and how we can learn from the past to create a better British Columbia. New Westminster is a very special city as it was BC’s first capital, and by following the recommendations of this report, will live up to its role as a forward-thinking city by bringing British Columbians towards a more peaceful and tolerant tomorrow.
After my speech, The City of New Westminster Council passed the motion unanimously, with an amendment to also name a trail connected to the Queensborough dock in commemoration of the Komagata Maru.
Furthermore, the city will be drafting a formal apology to the Descendents of the Komagata Maru for actions taken in June 1914 by the New Westminster City Council in its attempt to block the entry of the passengers of the ship into Canada.
On behalf of the Descendents of the Komagata Maru Society, I would like to say thank you to Respected Mayor Jonathan X. Coté and Councillor Chinu Das for bringing the Motion behalf of the Descendants of the Komagata Maru Society request which was written by me and all the other councillors, City Manager Robert McCullough, and the rest of the city staff for their work in making this recognition of the Komagata Maru a reality.
It’s a great tribute to those passengers who experienced extreme hardship and suffering throughout the entire ordeal. With this motion, we can see a new and much brighter chapter of the Komagata Maru story being written, and it is showing BC to be a much more tolerant and inclusive community. We are extremely happy and thankful to be part of this very important change.