Raj Toor, right, with Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum. Toor has been pushing the city to rename a street in honour of the victims of the Komagata Maru. (Submitted photo: Raj Toor)

City council

Surrey to rename street to commemorate Komagata Maru victims

A heritage storyboard about the 1914 incident at s Surrey park was also endorsed by council

Surrey council has voted in favour of installing commemorative street name signs on 75A Avenue to honour the victims of the 1914 Komagata Maru incident.

During its July 8 meeting, council approved staff recommendations to install the street signs – Komagata Maru Way – on 75A Avenue between 120th and 121A streets.

Staff said the signs could be installed “within two or three weeks” of council’s approval.

Before the vote, Councillor Brenda Locke said she supported the initiative but with “a bit of trepidation.”

“I do not believe there was proper stakeholder consultation and that we’re rushing this project,” she said, suggesting more people with experience in South Asian studies should be engaged.

“You know that every soul on that ship died because of ignorance and racism. I’m not confident that naming a one-block street at the back of a strip mall meant for local traffic only will have the intended impact,” she said before voting in favour. “I certainly do not believe this street naming or story board is adequate to acknowledge the Komagata Maru tragedy nor to acknowledge the contribution of the South Asian community in Surrey. I dearly hope we add to this. I’m supportive of us having people do the work but I hope we can more than just the street naming.”

The lone vote of opposition against the street-naming initiative was Councillor Steven Pettigrew, who noted there was both support and opposition for the project in the community.

“All I’m left with is policy,” Pettigrew said, noting the city introduced a new commemorative street-naming policy just months ago.

“It doesn’t match our existing policy,” he said, adding that this would set a precedent for other groups to come forward.

“Maybe that policy needs to be addressed.”

SEE MORE: Descendants of Komagata Maru Society looks to have Surrey street renamed, Jan. 8, 2019

Raj Toor, whose grandfather came to Canada on the Komagata Maru, along with the Descendants of the Komagata Maru Society, has been pushing for the City of Surrey to rename a street in honour of the passengers. Toor previously told the Now-Leader he thought Surrey would be a good fit to memorialize the passengers because the city has such a large South Asian community.

In 1914, the Komagata Maru arrived in Vancouver from Hong Kong, carrying 376 passengers. Most of the passengers were immigrants from the Punjab region in what was then British India.

The hundreds of passengers were not allowed on shore. For two months, they remained in the waters outside of Vancouver before being forced to return to India. But upon their return, some of the passengers were shot and killed “in an encounter with British Indian police,” according to the canadianencyclopedia.ca.

Leading up to council’s Monday meeting, Toor said that if council approves the recommendations that it will be “great for those passengers who suffered a lot during the tragedy.”

“We are very happy, families (of the descendants of the passengers) are very happy,” Toor said.

Originally Toor wanted 128th Street renamed, possibly between 72nd and 88th avenues, but he said he was told by city staff that it would be difficult to rename that. He said he asked staff which street they would be OK with and he agreed on 75A Avenue.

Despite first going to the Heritage Advisory Commission back in January, and attended several meetings with staff and the commission, Toor said he was “very positive” he would be able to get commemorative signage.

“I had to work very hard for that one.”

Meantime, city council on Monday also voted in favour of other staff recommendations – identified by the Surrey Heritage Advisory Commission during its May meeting – which called for a research project on South Asians in Surrey, a heritage storyboard and for the city continue to offer programming that “shares the culture, history and contributions of South Asian residents in Surrey.”

The research project, according to the report, would include hiring a researcher to “provide an in-depth research service to produce a legacy document, which thoroughly documents South Asian history in Surrey” and will “fill a significant gap in the existing historical record.”

“Despite having a rich and diverse South Asian population today, little is known about the earliest South Asian residents in Surrey,” the report notes. “This research will become a legacy resource accessible to all researchers at the Surrey Archives.”

The heritage storyboard would provide an overview of the Komagata Maru incident and the reverberations the event has for many Surrey residents today. It would be installed at R.A. Nicholson Park, which is just east of an existing Komagata Maru mural.

The report says the interpretive panel would be installed following the completion of the research project.

An existing Komagata Maru mural was installed in 2006 at the Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society complex (12075 75A Ave.) in Strawberry Hill, according to the city. It was painted by Surrey artist Jarnail Singh, and the words “We Remember” accompany the mural.

In Vancouver, a “nationally significant” Komagata Maru memorial was installed at Harbour Green Park, and it is recognized with a national heritage designation through the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, the report says. It was developed through the work of the Khalsa Diwan Society.

The staff report said the commemorative street signs would “supplement” the existing memorials in Surrey and Vancouver.

For Toor, the naming of the street and also the storyboard in the park in memory of the Komagata Maru passengers is “an ideal way for Surrey residents to connect with their past in order to build a more peaceful and tolerant tomorrow.”

Michael Gibbs, president of Surrey Historical Society, also lauded the initiative.

“We are in full support of any council decision that celebrates the multi-national heritage that makes up our city,” he told the Now-Leader on Monday, ahead of the vote.

Gibbs noted the society is currently working with Surrey Archives on research into the South Asian community dating back to the 1880s.

“We’ve uncovered many, many photos of South Asian workers dating from the 1880s and 1890s. Their presence here has been significant and we agree fully with honouring that heritage.”



lauren.collins@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Lauren on Twitter

Just Posted

State of local financial crisis declared in Fort St. James

The District will have a job fair on July 31 to help workers find transitioning jobs

Northern B.C.’s Ridley coal terminal sold, Canada divests, First Nations to own portion

Ten per cent of shares transferred to the Lax Kw’alaams Band and the Metlakatla First Nation

Skeena mainstem closed to recreational sockeye

Escapements expected to be below 800,000 threshold

FOI data confirms rural drivers discriminated against, former Telkwa mayor says

Analyzed rural postal codes paid just over 2.5 times more in premiums than they received in claims

Curbside recycling to be cancelled in the District

This is a result of unrealized commitments from program partners and unsustainable costs to operate the service, council stated

Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman sentenced to life in prison

Experts say he will likely wind up at the federal government’s Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado

Olympic softball qualifier gets $150K boost from provincial government

2019 Americas Qualifier to be held in Surrey from Aug. 25-Sept. 1

Gas price inquiry questions Trans Mountain capacity, company denies collusion

The first of up to four days of oral hearings in the inquiry continue in Vancouver

‘Benzos’ and fentanyl a deadly cocktail causing a growing concern on B.C. streets

Overdoses caused by benzodiazepines can’t be reversed with opioid-overdose antidote naloxone

Will you be celebrating national hotdog day with any of these crazy flavours?

The popularity of hotdogs spans generations, cultures

Former home of accused Penticton shooter vandalized

Ex-wife of man who is accused of murdering four people had her house vandalized

Survivor of near-drowning in B.C. lake viewing life through new eyes

“If I died that day, the baby wouldn’t know his dad,” said 31-year-old Mariano Santander-Melo.

‘Beyond the call’: Teen in police custody gets birthday surprise by B.C. Mountie

Unusual celebration started when Staff Sgt. Paul Vadik went to visit the teen in his Coquitlam cell

Thunderstorms forecast across B.C.

Environment Canada has issued a thunderstorm watch for B.C.’s central Interior

Most Read