Vancouver Park Board approves monument to the Komagata Maru Incident

At the Monday, February 28 meeting of the Vancouver Park Board a monument to commemorate the Komagata Maru incident was approved in an unanimous vote.
Here is a link to agenda and staff report: VPB

The Komagata Maru incident is described in the VPB staff report:

The Komagata Maru marine vessel arrived in Vancouver harbour in 1914 carrying 376 British citizens of South Asian heritage. Due to exclusionary immigration policies of the time, 356 of these people were denied entry. The ship was in the harbour for two months and the passengers relied on the generosity of private citizens for food and water. The ship was eventually escorted out to sea. In 2008, the Canadian government and Province of British Columbia issued formal apologies for the Komagata Maru Incident.

Wikipedia on Komagata Maru

Diversity of Park Users

Our public spaces and parks provide opportunities for a variety of activities. In many respects the activities defines the space itself. Parks are places to exercise dogs, for kids to play, to read a book, talk with friends, play tennis, kick a soccer ball and to garden to name a few activities. But parks are also places where we mark with art installations and monuments.

The process of constructing history, of remembering and documenting is not always the noting of triumphs and success. The discourse of history includes speaking the truth and the process of reconciliation. Having a monument to the Komagata Maru allows us to formally acknowledge crimes of the past and own the responsibility of making the present more just and equitable.

Can our public spaces speak truth to power?

During the Olympics there was much debate about the nature of public space. Am Johal, the spokesman for the Impacts on the Communities Coalition(IOCC) hosted a series of public dialogues of different panels discussing varies discourses around the rubric “The right to the city”. “The right to the city” is a concept introduced by French social theoretician Henri Lefbvre ( describing the social construction of space.

One of the many take aways from this series was from Jeff Derksen’s presentation about how space is constructed by what ones does in itUtube of Jeff’s presentation. Events like Car Free Day are gestures of community groups to attempt to create space for people rather than space for cars. What one does in a space in many ways defines it.

In this respect art and monuments are a way of creating public space as well. The marking of a structure of remembrance serves both to create the public space in a physical way and through our contemplation of history represented by the structure, we create a space in our minds to hopefully better understand our culture and society. It may be difficult to remember the Komagata Maru Incident as it is an unflattering part of our history, but it is, nonetheless, important to remember and mark.

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