Commemorative stamp for Komagata Maru incident centennial

May 2014 commemorates 100 years of Komagata Maru, a Japanese steamship that arrived in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet on May 23, 1914. The steam ship carried 376 passengers. 340 Sikhs (from Punjab, India ), 24 Muslims, and 12 Hindus, all British subjects. Canada Post in connection with Asian Heritage Month has issued a new stamp marking the centennial of Komagata Maru incident.

CANADA POST - 100th-year anniversary - Komagata Maru incident“This stamp commemorates an important – yet tragic – moment in our history. Remembering this tragedy brings to light how Canada has transformed into a diverse and welcoming country,” says the Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport and responsible for Canada Post.

“Canada Post’s stamps tell the stories of our history. But we don’t just commemorate our heroic events; our nation is also shaped by the failures of its past. Events like Komagata Maru have helped encourage Canadians to make it a priority to build a more free and welcoming society that today doesn’t just tolerate diversity, but thrives by it,” says Deepak Chopra, President and CEO, Canada Post.

Komagata Maru’s arrival challenged a 1908 regulation, which denied entry to immigrants unless they could furnish $200 and had made a “continuous journey” from their home country. From all angles, this was near impossible for Indian immigrants to meet. As a result only 20 returning residents, and the ship’s doctor and his family were allowed leave Komagata Maru and enter Canada.

Exclusionary immigration policies denied entry, and the ship had return to India with the remaining passengers confined to Komagata Maru for 2 months. The incident took a more serious and sinister form when Komagata Maru returned to Budge Budge, Calcutta. many of those on ship were viewed as political agitators and 20 of them were shot while many were imprisoned. The restrictive immigration policies that were challenged by this incident were not repealed for 33 years.