Vancouver Centennial Plaque #29 – The Komagata Maru


Water Street


The Landing


Missing, but other plaques / monuments in different locations



On May 23, 1914, the Komagata Maru – chartered to test a federal government order halting East Indian immigration – was refused permission to land her Sikh passengers. After food shortages, the loss of an appeal, mutiny and foiled boarding attempts she sailed on July 23 with some 350 still aboard.”

Credit: Vancouver Centennial Commission, Historic Plaque Program – list and documentation plaques 1-49 (June 18, 1986). Courtesy of Vancouver Archives


After the anti-oriental riots in 1907, the government made an attempt to restrict immigration, by enacting the continuous journey regulation. This prevented immigration from people who had to make a stop between their home country and Canada, but, in practice, it only prevented ships that began their journey in India.

In 1914, the Komagata Maru steamship left Hong Kong, stopping at Shanghai and Yokohama, and arriving in Vancouver on May 23 with 376 passengers (340 Sikhs, 24 Muslims, and 12 Hindus). It was stopped by immigration officials and not allowed to dock. The Conservative Premier of BC, Robert Borden, and MP H.H. Stevens insisted that the passengers would not be allowed to disembark. This led to the ship being anchored in Coal Harbour for two months, with supporters having to provide food and water to the mistreated passengers. When police attempted to board the ship, they were showered with lumps of coal and bricks – one of which is in the Museum of Vancouver.

Only twenty passengers were allowed to stay in Canada – the rest remained on the Komagata Maru, which left Vancouver on July 23 and arrived in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) on September 27. The government were concerned that the passengers were dangerous agitators, so tried to arrest the leaders of the group. A riot ensued, in which 25-75 people were killed (whether you follow government records or eye witness accounts) and many more were arrested and imprisoned.

In 2008, the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia formerly apologized for the Komagata Maru incident, saying, “The House deeply regrets that the passengers, who sought refuge in our country and our province, were turned away without benefit of the fair and impartial treatment befitting a society where people of all cultures are welcomed and accepted”. In 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized, as did the Vancouver City Council in 2021.

The 1986 plaque was installed on The Landing building on Water Street, but isn’t there anymore. However, there is a plaque for the 75th anniversary of the incident in Portal Park and a beautiful monument on the seawall by the Convention Centre.

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