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Prince George Regional Heritage Fair
The Komagata Maru Incident
My project is about the Komagata Maru Incident. The Komagata Maru Incident is one of the earliest events in the Sikh community’s struggle to create equality for Sikhs and other communities in Canada. Sikhs had begun immigrating to Canada at the beginning of the 20th century. The Sikhs worked very hard and made many sacrifices to create a better life and equality in Canada. However, they also faced a lot of discrimination due to the ideas and attitudes towards racial diversity during the time. In 1908, the Canadian government passed two exclusion laws with the goal of restricting Sikh immigration to Canada, however the Sikhs chose to come together, face the hardships, and challenge the discriminatory exclusion laws by coming to Canada on the Komagata Maru. They were determined to open the door for immigration between Canada and India and create equality for everyone. The Komagata Maru Incident and the Sikhs’ fight for their rights and freedoms were very important in creating the multicultural, opportunistic, and peaceful Canada we know today.
What was the most interesting thing you learned about your topic?
The most interesting thing I learned was that the Canadian Government were prepared to attack the passengers on the Komagata Maru and brought in the Canadian Navy and a warship to try and force the ship back to India. I thought it was only a few officers that had tried to take control of the ship and that the government would not take such extreme measures.
What important lessons have you learned that you want to share with other Canadians?
I learned that it is important to learn about our history and be thankful for all the Sikhs and immigrants did to create equality in Canada. They worked very hard, faced many hardships, and sacrificed a lot to create equality for all communities and ensure a better life for future generations. They faced a lot of discrimination, but they chose to stay together and not give up. They were determined to open the door for immigration between Canada and India and earn their rights and freedoms. The Sikhs worked very hard to create the multicultural, opportunistic, and peaceful Canada we live in today and showed us what it means to truly be Canadian. We need to ensure that we protect the multiculturalism of Canada, treat everyone with respect, and understand each other so events like the Komagata Maru Incident are not repeated.
How would you compare your life today to the lives of those studied in your project?
Today, I live happy, peaceful, and opportunistic life in Canada and I have many rights and freedoms. Today, people of all backgrounds are treated equally and respectfully. However, the Sikhs coming to Canada on the Komagata Maru ship were treated terribly, faced a lot of discrimination, and were denied the simple right of entering Canada, even as subjects of the British Empire. They had to work very hard and make many sacrifices to try to immigrate to Canada for the opportunity for a better life. Today, there are many Sikhs in Canada and they have the opportunity to live a multicultural, happy, and peaceful life because of the hard work Sikhs did before to create equality in Canada.