No One is Illegal (NOII) statement on Komagata Maru centennial
100 YEARS AGO, Canadian immigration officers in British Columbia refused entry for the 376 passengers of Komagata. Today we remember the sacrifices of South Asians on Coast Salish territories to raise money, arrange legal counsel, and provide food to the passengers. We honour their descendants who have persevered, despite barriers like racism, to establish their lives here.
Today, on its centennial, the story of the Komagata Maru is being celebrated as a “historical” event. But the past repeats itself.
In August of 2010, 492 Tamil refugees made a three-month journey from Sri Lanka to British Columbia. The refugees – including 49 children and their mothers – were forced into detention centres amidst a national hysteria over “illegals”, “queue jumpers”, and “potential terrorists.” Many remain jailed, many have been deported.
The current government has made sweeping changes to the immigration and refugee system:
– Strict laws make it harder to get citizenship and easier to lose it
– A new refugee system that restricts legal avenues for refugees and mandatory jail for “irregularly arriving” refugees, including children as young as 16 years
– A moratorium and quota on sponsorships of parents and grandparents, and reduced quotas for spouses
– Conditional residency for spousal sponsorships.
– Minimum income to sponsor family members increased by 30%
– Increase in the number of temporary migrant workers, who are vulnerable to abuse
– Refugee claimants have had their health benefits, like emergency treatment for life threatening ailments, cut
We urge all during this time of reflection to remember yesterday’s injustices by standing against those happening today.