A group of professors from universities across Canada have written an open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau about the legacy of the Komagata Maru incident and the significance of the federal government's apology. Here is what they say...


What is the legacy of the Komagata Maru?

We, scholars of the languages, histories, cultures, and religions of South Asia, write as a group in recognition of the significance of the Canadian government’s apology for the Komagata Maru incident that will take place in Parliament by the Prime Minister on May 18, 2016. The Komagata Maru was a ship bearing 376 migrants from British India, most of whom were disallowed from entering Canada in 1914 as a part of a larger move against Asian immigration to Canada in that period. The centenary of this incident was commemorated in 2014 with a range of events across Canada, and particularly in British Columbia, with the participation of a wide range of activists, scholars, artists, and members of the public. This apology has been long awaited, and represents a valuable demonstration of the acceptance of responsibility and admission of contrition.

What next? There are many possible legacies for the Komagata Maru incident. Its story relates to many pressing current social problems: the need for equitable, transparent, and just immigration policies and procedures, and a generous response to the urgent needs of refugees. The Komagata Maru resonates with our world in all of these domains. We, as scholars, call on the Canadian government to act in the memory of the Komagata Maru also by embracing Canada’s long and complex relationship with South Asia, and the vibrant and relatively little known history of South Asian Canadians. We hope that recognition of the injustice associated with the Komagata Maru incident will result in support for the deepening of knowledge about South Asia in Canada, and exploration of the contributions, experiences, and histories of South Asian Canadians. Such work must reach beyond the directly monetizable aspects of the Canada-South Asia relationship to embrace the worlds of history, literature, and culture that bind us, and through which we can build a new kind of future.

Let the Komagata Maru, which arrived in Canadian waters a little more than 102 years ago, remind us of the importance of history and its connection to the present, and the importance of the expression of that past in literature, scholarship, and the arts. Enable real engagement with South Asia by supporting, among other things, student research and travel in South Asia, community-based research in Canada, and less-commonly taught and low enrolment languages. If we support them in doing so, our students will carry forward the legacy of the Komagata Maru in a way that honours the past, and creates a more equitable and infinitely richer future.

Signed by:

Satwinder Bains, Director, Centre for Indo Canadian Studies & UFV India, & Associate Professor Social Cultural and Media Studies – Indo Canadian Studies, University of the Fraser Valley

Karine Bates, Professeure agrégée, Département d’anthropologie & Directrice du PRIAS/Pôle de recherche sur l’Inde et l’Asie du Sud, Université de Montréal

Rachel Berger, Associate Professor, History Department, Concordia University

Mathieu Boisvert, Director of Graduate Programs in Religion; Director, Centre d’études et de recherche sur l’Inde, l’Asie du Sud et sa diaspora, Université du Québec à Montréal

Mandakranta Bose, Professor Emerita at the Institute of Asian Research and Director of the Institute’s Centre for India and South Asia Research, University of British Columbia

Barbra Clayton, Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Mount Allison University

Francis Cody, Associate Professor, Anthropology and Asian Institute, University of Toronto

André Couture, Professeur associé, Faculté de théologie et de sciences religieuses, Université Laval

Neil Dalal, Associate Professor, Philosophy and Religious Studies, University of Alberta

Arti Dhand, Department for the Study of Religion, Associate Professor, University of Toronto

Diana Dimitrova, Professeure agrégée, Faculté de théologie et de sciences des religions, Université de Montréal

Pat Dold, Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies, and Head of Gender Studies, Memorial University

Jonathan Geen, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, King’s University College @Western University

Ellen Goldberg, Associate Professor of South Asian Religions, School of Religion, Queen’s University

Michael Hawley, Associate Professor, Religious Studies, Mount Royal University

Sukhwant Hundal, Lecturer in Punjabi, Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia

Tom Hunter, Lecturer in South-Southeast Asian Studies, Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia

Ranbir Johal, Faculty, Department of Language and Cultures, Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Prashant Keshavmurthy, Assistant Professor of Persian-Iranian Studies, Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University

Pasha Khan, Chair in Urdu Language and Culture & Assistant Professor, Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University

John Leavitt, Professeur titulaire, Département d’anthropologie, Université de Montréal

Richard Mann, Associate Professor and Associate Dean (Curriculum, Programs & Planning), Carleton University

Libbie Mills, Lecturer, Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto

Nicola Mooney, Associate Professor, Anthropology, Department of Social, Cultural, and Media Studies and Senior Associate, Centre for Indo-Canadian Studies, University of the Fraser Valley

Anne Murphy, Associate Professor, Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia

Vrinda Narain, Faculty of Law and the Institute for Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies (IGSF), McGill University

Kamala Elizabeth Nayar, Professor of Asian Studies, Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Jason Neelis, Associate Professor, Religion and Culture, Wilfred Laurier University

Leslie Orr, Professor, Department of Religion, Concordia University

Ishita Pande, Associate Professor, Department of History, Queen’s University

Andrea Marion Pinkney, Assistant Professor, School of Religious Studies, McGill University

Bhavani Raman, Associate Professor, University of Toronto

Shyam Ranganathan, Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy and Department of Social Sciences, South Asian Studies, York University

Ajay Rao, Associate Professor, Department of Historical Studies and Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto

Hillary Peter Rodrigues, Professor, Department of Religious Studies, The University of Lethbridge

Elizabeth Rohlman, Associate Professor in the Department of Classics and Religion, University of Calgary

Karen Ruffle, Associate Professor, Department of Historical Studies/Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto

Shandip Saha, Assistant Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Athabasca University

Adheesh Sathaye, Associate Professor, Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia

Sara Shneiderman, Assistant Professor, Anthropology and the Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia

Milan Singh, Research Fellow with the Centre for Policy Studies on Culture and Communities, Simon Fraser University

Mark Turin, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of British Columbia

Anne Vallely, Associate Professor, Department of Classics and Religious Studies, University of Ottawa

Dagmar Wujastyk, Associate Professor, East Asian Studies, University of Alberta

Dominik Wujastyk, Professor and Singhmar Chair, Department of History and Classics, University of Alberta

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