When I see the photo of the Sikhs on the decks of the Komagata Maru, I think of the ones trying so desperately to pry that door open on land. The ones who raised money that they did not have for legal fees, and who rowed out to feed the men aboard with food they scarcely earned. Their story, and reasons for helping those barred from entry is as old as our nation itself.
B.C.'s past legislated discrimination of "non-mainstream" aliens extended to far more than the Chinese, but also to Indo-Canadians and Japanese-Canadians. So why it is today the provincial government only wants to say sorry to the Chinese? Why is it focusing on advertising the apology among the Chinese, and lacking the courage to extend that effort to the entire province? By doing so, B.C. has failed to translate this apology as a political agenda for all citizens.
These two words encapsulate so many negative aspects of the South Asian experience in Canada: exclusion, discrimination, and racism. While the community has overcome many systemic challenges, it would be too easy to see this as a positive narrative -- from tragedy to triumph.
These days, one landing on D'Arcy Island is likely to be a kayaker enjoying its remote beauty. But 122 years ago, that haven must have been desperately lonely, isolating, and even terrifying for those immigrant lepers just shuttled off and left to quietly live a life of struggle, or quietly die as they please.