Winnipeg residents say broken promises on Komagata Maru Memorial Park development

A close-knit group of residents of northwest Winnipeg turned to an open public protest to finally see a long-promised memorial park taking shape in their area.

Residents of Waterford Green, in the Inkster Park area, lined the steps of the Manitoba Legislature on Saturday, many holding signs with clear messages including: “Betrayal is what we can’t do in Canada ”and“ Political coup or personal gain? ”

They say they have been waiting for years for the government and a real estate developer to act on the construction of a park intended to commemorate a dark chapter of intolerance against the Sikh community, the so-called Komagata Maru incident.

The 1914 incident saw the government of the day turn down a ship landed in Vancouver carrying hundreds of South Asian migrants, most of whom were Sikhs.

The incident is of great significance to the Sikh community and led Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to formally apologize in the House of Commons in 2016 for Canada’s role in it.

It was the same year residents say they were promised the memorial park.

But since then nothing has happened despite meetings after meetings with various government officials and the local developer, said Jagdev Pannu, who is the spokesperson for the residents.

“It’s a pretty bad thing because the Komagata Maru is an important incident in Sikh Canadian history,” Pannu said. “Five years ago, there is nothing built… Please keep your promise. ”

During a visit to the proposed park on Saturday night, CBC found much of it with cut grass, but devoid of any park-like environment like picnic tables, a playground, or even a sign indicating a name. There are few trees.
Jagdev Pannu is in a part of the park behind his house which is covered with overgrown natural grass and weeds. (James Turner / CBC)

Residents said it had become a de facto dog park and they often had to call the town to have the grass mowed.

Another large section is overgrown with wild grasses which attract rodents. Seniors meet each day in a small shaded section at the southern edge of the park and must bring their own seat.

Pannu, who lives on the Singh Trail backing onto the park site, presented a concept plan titled “For Discussion Purposes Only, Plans Are Subject To Change” which was created by a planner but was never implemented. . It describes the proposed facilities, in particular a body of water and a shading structure.

“An error has occurred, that’s the main thing,” an MP from the region told residents in 2020

Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux and his daughter Cindy Lamoureux are aware of complaints from residents. The two appeared at a rally to talk to them on the park grounds in August 2020, which was broadcast live on Facebook.

“We think something should be put on this park as a representation of [the Komagata Maru]said Cindy Lamoureux at the time.

Kevin Lamoureux told the crowd he understood their concerns and would advocate for them with Winnipeg City Council.

He said the city is the entity that is responsible for allocating resources for the park.
Older members of the community congregate at the southwest end of the park, which is the only shaded area. Due to the lack of amenities, many bring their own seat. (James Turner / CBC)

He said Trudeau’s apology in the House of Commons sparked a meeting between him and developers and investors who said they wanted to commemorate the Komagata Maru incident.

“It was universally well accepted a few years ago. [The name] has never been registered with the City of Winnipeg for any reason, ”he said. “In the end, something went wrong, that’s the bottom line. Should he have been? Yes.”

A city spokesperson said there had been a past meeting between residents and city officials to discuss the name of the park and amenities. “However, no formal request has been made to name the space,” David Driedger told CBC in an email.

To register the name, the city said residents should submit an application through its Welcome to Winnipeg initiative.

However, the own description of the city said the program is intended to strengthen reconciliation with indigenous peoples – to “address the lack of indigenous perspectives, experiences and contributions to stories that are remembered and commemorated.”

“Installation of the park equipment would be subject to project and funding approval,” Driedger said.

Migrants killed in riot after being turned away from B.C. coast

The steamboat Komagata Maru arrived on the west coast of Canada on May 23, 1914, anchoring at Coal Harbor in Vancouver. His arrival was a direct challenge to Canada’s immigration rules at the time, which had become increasingly strict and discriminatory.

The ship was immediately greeted by immigration officials who refused to allow its 376 passengers to disembark.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is applauded as he formally apologizes for a 1914 government decision that banned most Komagata Maru passengers from entering Canada, in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday May 18, 2016. (Adrian Wyld / Canadian Press)

Twenty people determined to be returning residents were eventually allowed in, but no one else got off the boat during the two months he was there.

The Komagata Maru was formally ordered out. Four days later, under the guns of naval cruiser HMCS Rainbow, the ship was escorted out to sea and began the voyage to Calcutta.

Upon his return to India, he was greeted by British soldiers. Twenty passengers were killed in a riot that followed, and others were jailed.

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