Golden’s Sikh heritage recognized on new Stop of Interest sign

A new Stop of Interest sign was unveiled in Golden today, recognizing the community’s early Sikh pioneers and the role they played in Golden’s history.

“This new Stop of Interest recognizes the important contributions early Sikh settlers made in Golden and throughout the Interior of B.C.,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone. “This is a good example of the Stop of Interest signs we want to add across the province, to tell the stories of how B.C. was shaped through the contributions of many different ethnicities and cultures.”

“We acknowledge the Gurdwara in Golden as the first in B.C., and quite likely the first in North America,” said Pyara Lotay, on behalf of the local Sikh community. “We thank the B.C. government for recognizing Golden’s Sikh pioneers and their place of worship with this Stop of Interest.”

The sign recognizing Golden’s Sikhs was originally a small local area history sign located next to the ‘Golden’ Stop of Interest sign at the viewpoint off Golden View Road. The new sign will replace the ‘Golden’ Stop of Interest sign, and the refurbished ‘Golden’ sign will be relocated to a site to be selected in consultation with the Town of Golden.

“The story of our community’s Sikh pioneers is one of hard work and determination,” said Golden mayor Ron Oszust. “This Stop of Interest means a lot to our present-day Sikh residents, and highlights an important chapter in the rich history of our region, of which we’re all proud.”

B.C.’s Stop of Interest signs were first installed in 1958 to commemorate the Colony of B.C.’s centenary and recognize significant historical places, people and events. The ministry is refurbishing existing signs in need of repair and updating language where necessary.

In addition, the Province is adding up to 75 new Stop of Interest signs. British Columbians are invited to submit ideas for new Stop of Interest signs and share interesting stories that could be told to people travelling B.C.’s highways. Submissions will be accepted through Jan. 31, 2017.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure will install the majority of the new Stop of Interest signs in late spring/early summer 2017.

A new Stop of Interest sign was unveiled in Golden today, recognizing the community’s early Sikh pioneers and the role they played in Golden’s history. BC Transportation and Infrastructure (facebook.com)
A new Stop of Interest sign was unveiled in Golden today, recognizing the community’s early Sikh pioneers and the role they played in Golden’s history. BC Transportation and Infrastructure (facebook.com)

WSO Welcomes Komagata Maru Apology- Calls for Inclusion in School Curricula

Ottawa (May 18, 2016):  The World Sikh Organization of Canada welcomes today’s apology by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on behalf of the Government of Canada for the Canadian Government’s decision in 1914 to refuse entry to the Komagata Maru.  The ship, carrying 376 mostly Sikh passengers from Punjab, British India was turned away after two months of being refused entry at the Vancouver ports.  The WSO has reached out to provincial minsters of education across Canada, calling for the Komagata Maru tragedy and the racist immigration policy behind the incident to be made part of school curricula.

The Komagata Maru and its passengers, despite being British subjects, were denied entry due to racist immigration controls established by the Canadian government to exclude non-European immigrants.  In response to race riots and “anti-Asiatic” parades, driven by fears that Canada would be overrun by Asian immigration, the Canadian government passed an Order in Council in 1908 prohibiting immigration of individuals who did not come to Canada via a continuous journey from their country of birth or citizenship.  In effect, this law prohibited the entry of all immigrants from India, as a continuous voyage was not possible without a stopover. Other Orders in Council also prohibited the landing of Asian immigrants that did not possess $200 upon arrival.  At the same time, Canada was welcoming record levels of European immigration.

While Prime Minister Trudeau’s apology in the House of Commons recognizes the “dark chapter” the Komagata Maru incident as well as the exclusionary and racist immigration laws represent in Canadian history, it is important that this chapter is neither forgotten nor ignored.  The WSO has written to provincial ministers calling for the Komagata Maru incident to be included in school curricula across the country.

WSO President Mukhbir Singh said today, “Prime Minster Trudeau’s apology in the House of Commons today is a historic moment for Canadian Sikhs and recognizes the dark chapter the Komagata Maru tragedy marks in Canada’s history.  While Canada is today a model of multiculturalism and inclusivity, it is important for us to understand that it was not always.   We believe it is essential that the Komagata Maru incident, as well as the anti-immigrant sentiment that fueled this incident, be made a part of our provincial education curricula. It is important that we as Canadians teach our youngsters to confront issues such as racism and xenophobia and learning about the Komagata Maru incident is an excellent opportunity to do so.”

Prime Minister delivers formal Komagata Maru apology in House of Commons

The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today delivered a formal statement of apology in the House of Commons for the Komagata Maru incident.

On May 23, 1914, a steamship arrived in Vancouver carrying 376 passengers who had hopes for a new life in Canada. After a long journey from India, the majority of the passengers – who were of Sikh, Muslim, and Hindu origin – were denied entry into Canada due to the laws in existence at the time.

Today, the Prime Minister delivered a formal apology in front of descendants of those directly affected by the incident. He emphasized that Canada’s rich diversity is a source of strength for our country and reaffirmed the government’s commitment to upholding the values – including multiculturalism – enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“Today – while knowing that no words can fully erase the pain and suffering experienced by the passengers – I offer a sincere apology on behalf of the government for the laws in force at the time that allowed Canada to be indifferent to the plight of the passengers of the Komagata Maru.” said Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

“The Komagata Maru incident is a stain on Canada’s past. But the history of our country is one in which we constantly challenge ourselves, and each other, to extend our personal definitions of who is a Canadian. We have learned, and will continue to learn, from the mistakes of our past. We must make sure to never repeat them,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the House of  Commons  while delivering the formal apology for the Komagata Maru incident.

Trudeau to formally apologize for 1914 Komagata Maru tragedy

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will offer a full apology in the House of Commons next month for a decision by the government in 1914 to turn away a ship carrying hundreds of South Asian immigrants.

The apology for the Komagata Maru incident will be delivered on May 18, nearly 102 years after the ship from Hong Kong arrived off Vancouver only to have almost all of its 376 passengers — nearly all Sikhs — denied entry due to the immigration laws at the time.

The ship was eventually sent to Kolkata and least 19 people were killed in an ensuing skirmish with British soldiers, while others were jailed.

“We failed them utterly,” Trudeau told a packed room Monday on Parliament Hill at a celebration marking the Sikh holiday of Vaisakhi.

“As a nation we should never forget the prejudice suffered by the Sikh community at the hands of the Canadian government of the day. We should not, we will not.”

Former prime minister Stephen Harper apologized for the incident in 2008 at an event in British Columbia, but members of Canada’s Sikh community have long said an apology should be offered formally in Parliament.

The Komagata Maru in Vancouver's English Bay in May 1914. Stephen Harper apologized for the tragedy at an event in 2008, but Canada's Sikh community wanted to see it recognized officially in Parliament.

FILE PHOTO

The Komagata Maru in Vancouver’s English Bay in May 1914. Stephen Harper apologized for the tragedy at an event in 2008, but Canada’s Sikh community wanted to see it recognized officially in Parliament.

The Liberals have been calling since 2008 for an apology in the Commons and Trudeau repeated that pledge during the election campaign.

Trudeau said Monday while an apology will not ease the pain and suffering of those who lived through the experience, it is the right thing to do and the House of Commons the right place for it to be delivered.

“It was in the House of Commons that the law that prevented the passengers from disembarking were first passed and so it is fitting that the government should apologize there on behalf of all Canadians.”

There are 17 Sikh members of Parliament, including Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

Prior to being elected, Sajjan was the commanding officer of the B.C. military regiment Duke of Connaught’s Own, which over a century ago had been involved in the government’s efforts to turn back the ship.

British Columbia’s government celebrates South Asian contributions to B.C.’s shared history

VICTORIA – The South Asian contribution to the province’s and the
country’s shared history will be on permanent display in the B.C.
legislature after today’s announcement by Premier Christy Clark that an
historically symbolic flag would be installed inside the Parliament
Buildings.

The 1874 version of the Red Ensign flag is one of the first Canadian
flags to display the emblem of British Columbia after the province joined
Confederation in 1871.

The flag was presented to the province by Steven Purewal, founder of
Indus Media Foundation Canada, in honour of the contributions made to
British Columbia, Canada, and the British Crown by the Punjabi community.

It is dedicated to Kesur Singh, a Risaldar Major Captain in the British
Indian Army who arrived in B.C. as one of Canada’s first Sikh immigrants.
It is the version of the Canadian flag that would have flown over
government buildings when he arrived.

“With Remembrance Day two weeks away, this is a meaningful time to
commemorate our history – and better understand how we got to today,”
said Premier Clark. “The prosperous, free, and multicultural province
we’re so fortunate to call home was built through the hard work and
sacrifice of people who came from halfway around the world in search of a
better life.”

Many early South Asian Sikh pioneers were veterans of colonial Punjabi
regiments that had served the Crown since 1849, when Punjab became part
of the British Empire.

They came to Canada looking for a better life, but faced difficult
conditions. In 1914, the Komagata Maru ship carrying 376 passengers from
India was turned away from the port in Vancouver. In 2008, the B.C.
Legislature formal apologized for the incident.

During the First World War Punjabi soldiers were fighting shoulder-to-
shoulder with Canadians. They suffered enormous losses – and in death,
100 years after the war, they lie beside their Canadian brothers-in-arms
in 17 cemeteries scattered across French and Belgian Flanders.

“This centennial is an opportunity to commemorate those who lost their
lives, but also to engage today’s youth and diverse communities about the
significance of the sacrifices that were made,” said Purewal. “During
WWI, nearly 500,000 Punjabis fought in a joint cause with Canada, despite
the discriminatory conditions prevailing at the time — their service and
notion of duty was truly remarkable.”

Premier Clark and Purewal were joined by members of Surrey-based 3300
British Columbia Regiment (Bhai Kanhaiya) Royal Canadian Army Cadet
Corps, along with leaders from B.C.’s Sikh communities.

The history and contributions of the South Asian communities to B.C. are
part of the province’s new K-12 curriculum being phased in over the next
three years.

“We’re not just talking about history, we’re talking about today,” said
Premier Clark. “B.C. is a place where we recognize and embrace the
contributions of all diverse communities, including South Asians,
including First Nations, including Europeans – and celebrate the new
generation moving forward.”

Quick Facts:

* B.C. is the most ethnically diverse province in Canada and welcomes
nearly 40,000 new immigrants every year.

* Sikhs are the largest South Asian ethnic group in Canada.

* Established in 2013, the 3300 RCACC is the first cadet corps in Canada
to embrace the Sikh culture and contribution to Canada’s military history
as part of their corps identity.

* One-quarter of the people in B.C. are self-identified visible
minorities.

* Since 1990, B.C.’s Multicultural Advisory Council has promoted cross-
cultural understanding and supports the British Columbia Multicultural
Awards.

Learn More:

Indus Media Foundation Canada: http://imfc.org

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Toronto

Hordes of Modi admirers and some protesters made their way to Ricoh Coliseum Wednesday in Toronto.

Toronto is welcoming India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi with crowds of admirers — and protesters.

Modi and Prime Minister Stephen Harper landed in Toronto Wednesday afternoon, after Modi’s ceremonial welcome in Ottawa earlier today.

* India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in Canada on a three-day visit to Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver.

* This evening, he is set to unleash Modi-mania in Toronto on Wednesday evening, says reporter Raveena Aulakh, when he takes the stage at the Ricoh Coliseum. A crowd of about 8,000 supporters is expected.

* Toronto’s welcome is billed to be on the lines of his Madison Square address in New York last year, where he was cheered like a rock star by some 18,000 spectators.

* Modi, a divisive figure in India, is nevertheless considered a great orator.

* PM Harper is also expected to speak tonight.

Their meeting has already proven historically significant. It is the first bilateral meeting in Canada of an Indian prime minister since 1973, when former PM Pierre Elliot Trudeau met with India’s former PM, Indira Ghandi.

 The enigmatic leader of the second-most populous country in the world is likely to face hordes of admirers at Ricoh Coliseum on his stop Wednesday in Toronto.

Edgar Faleiro, an Indian Catholic, said that his feelings for Modi are mixed because he has seen the country become increasingly divided along religious lines under his leadership.

“He’s done well on the economic front,” Faleiro said.

“If he can stand and protect every community, that would be great.”

Modi is beloved by many, having earned a reputation for being a self-made man who began his career not in the lap of luxury, but as a tea seller.

“Every common man can relate to him,” said Pranit Patil, a supporter on the way to the Ricoh Coliseum where Modi will address an estimated crowd of 8,000 this evening.

“He’s a very honest fellow,” added Chandrakant Patil, who is also from Modi’s home province of Gujarat.

Modi’s visit is also expected to draw protestors, including Joyce Almeida who make the trek to Ricoh Coliseum.

“It’s not a protest so much as highlighting a concern. We Christians in India are a minority and we’re not being protected,” said Almeida, who moved here from Maharashtra, India five years ago.

Modi is a member of a Hindu nationalist party, accused in the past of aiding the killing of 1,000 Indian Muslims in communal riots in 2002 while he was chief minister of Gujarat. Modi has always denied involvement in the violence, and India’s Supreme Court has said there was no case to bring against him, but he was banned entry to Canada and the U.S. for 12 years as a suspected human rights abuser.

An organization called Sikhs for Justice has filed a complaint with the Attorney General of Canada requesting criminal proceedings against Modi.

With files from Star staff