The Voyage of the Komagata Maru
268 pages, 6 x 9
20 b&w photographs
Release Date:22 Apr 2014
Release Date:28 Apr 2014

The Voyage of the Komagata Maru

The Sikh Challenge to Canada's Colour Bar, Expanded and Fully Revised Edition

UBC Press

A century has passed since the Komagata Maru arrived in Vancouver. Its arrival was a direct challenge to Canada’s immigration laws, which barred immigrants from India – yet the nearly four hundred Punjabi passengers on board the ship had been promised equality with all other British subjects, and they arrived to claim that right. For two months, the passengers were harassed by immigration officials and endured extreme physical hardship, until finally they were forced to return to India. Once forgotten, today the incident is a strong symbol of policies that Canada now rejects. The Voyage of the Komagata Maru is an extensive revision, reappraisal, and expansion of Hugh Johnston’s authoritative history of the Komagata Maru incident, first published in 1979. This updated edition draws in new research – exploring the legal issues surrounding the incident and delving deeper into the motives of the passengers and their leaders and supporters – and revisits the previous edition’s assessments in light of insight gained over the intervening decades. Now expanded by more than 50 percent, The Voyage of the Komagata Maru is still the only comprehensive historical account of the Komagata Maru incident – a story of immigration, empire, politics, and human rights, which Canadians increasingly recognize as a critical moment in this country’s history.

This book will be of particular appeal to scholars of history, immigration, and multiculturalism, as well as general readers with an interest in Indo-Canadian history and the history of British Columbia.

Written with deep knowledge and sensitivity, this book authoritatively documents a defining moment in the history of Canada and the Indo-Canadians. A must-read for those engaged in the pursuit of equality and harmony in an increasingly diverse Canada. The Honourable Ujjal Dosanjh, PC, QC, human rights activist and former premier of British Columbia
Every Canadian should read this book. It captures a very important part of Canadian history and a pivotal incident that occurred in 1914 … My grandfather was in Canada when the Komagata Maru arrived, and he would be proud of the way that Hugh Johnston has presented this event. The Honourable Herb Dhaliwal, PC, community leader and former federal minister

Hugh J.M. Johnston is a professor emeritus in history at Simon Fraser University. Among his publications are two other books on Punjabis in Canada, Jewels of the Qila: The Remarkable Story of an Indo-Canadian Family (UBC Press, 2012) and The Four Quarters of the Night: The Life Journey of an Emigrant Sikh (1995).


Introduction: South Asian Emigrants and the Empire

1 Exclusion: A Hidden Policy

2 Education: A Political Awakening

3 Encouragement: Disputing the Law Successfully

4 Departure: A Punjabi Emigrant Ship from Hong Kong

5 Arrival: Stopped at Canada’s Gateway

6 Delay: Stalling by Officials

7 The Court of Appeal: Canada’s Policy Upheld

8 Force: The Police Repulsed

9 Intimidation: Facing a Navy Cruiser

10 Return: A Tragic Homecoming

11 Arrest and Detention: The Aftermath of the Budge Budge Riot

12 Surrender: Gaining National Attention in India

13 Assassination: An Ending and a Beginning

Postscript: After the Komagata Maru



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