The Hindu in Canada


By Sunder Singh, Editor of “The Aryan,” Toronto, Canada

The migration of peoples from one part of the world to another is always interesting and especially is this the case with the Hindus of India, who in the past settled in Java, Sumatra and other islands of the Indian Archipelago. The modem movements of these people constitute a story of absorbing importance. The fact that the Hindus have not emigrated to other parts of the world but have practically remained isolated and unto themselves gives the movement of the Sikhs to Canada its significance. The Hindus of recent years have moved in batches to South Africa, Australia, the British West Indies, the Straits Settlements, and the Far East. To all these countries they go generally from certain well-defined areas. One can almost point with a finger the particular locality on the map from which the emigrants go to these parts of the world. The Hindus who have come to Canada are mostly Sikhs. They are from the Punjab and from a few districts round about Lahore. The density of population there is more than one per acre. They depend almost entirely on agriculture. There are hardly any industries to speak of, and it is primarily because of the overcrowded state of agriculture that the Sikh, who is fond of fresh pastures, goes abroad.

The first Sikhs to see Canada, I have been told, were those returning to India after the Diamond Jubilee celebration in London. They saw the vast prairies of this great Dominion, which are not unlike the plains of the Punjab. There were the waving crops of wheat, which is raised so well in their own province. It was not till 1904 that a very small number of these hardy men crossed from Hongkong to Vancouver. At first when they came it was hard to get work, but as soon as they gained their way, they found plenty to do. Their employers recomim nded these men to others for the hard-working and steady ! abits of the Sikhs. I have heard of the privations and hardships of these men when they came here first. One case I specially remember—a Sikh new-comer, who lived entirely on potatoes like our friends, the Irishmen, for quite a considerable period.

There was no organized effort on the part of the Sikhs coming to Canada. It was all spontaneous. These men wrote back to their friends in the Far East of the great opportunities for labor in the Dominion. In China and nearby countries there is always a steady stream of men from North India, who work as policemen, soldiers and in various other capacities. This class was the next to come. They came in small parties from Hongkong, Shanghai, Manchuria and the Straits Settlements. They were accustomed to British laws and institutions. Then came the peasant proprietors of the Punjab, who mortgaged the small pieces of land handed down by their ancestors, and who staked their all on the great venture.

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It was in the years 1905 to 1908 that most of the Sikhs now domiciled in Canada landed in this country. They were tall and wiry men of fine physique. They came from a cold climate and were used to roughing it, as they say out West.

The Chinese were the first of the Oriental newcomers; the Japanese were next to follow; and the Sikhs came last of all. In 1907-08 ther'e was a financial panic, and the results were spread far and wide. Work was hard to get, but the Sikhs, by their practical self-denial and helping each other, tided over the hard times. The Chinese, having a government of their own, are represented by consuls, who take care of their interests. The Japanese can protect their nationals abroad, as is known to all. But with the Sikhs it was otherwise. During the stringency a great agitation was set on foot against the Orientals. Racial prejudice and passions rose high. Riots occurred against the Chinese and Japanese in 1907, and I have been told of a very anxious night which the Sikhs spent in their meeting house in Vancouver in 1908 when they heard rumors that this wave of fury and passion was to be let loose on them.

The Dominion Government, through a Royal Commission, paid compensation for damages to property and loss of business, and offered apologies to the Chinese and Japanese. The Hindus, who were British subjects, had come to British Columbia in 1907 in only one-third as many numbers as the Japanese, and many of them, according to evidence taken on oath, as a result of the immigration propaganda of certain Canadian interests.

But somehow a malicious agitation was started against our people. Mis-statements and misrepresentation became the order of the day. The idea seemed to be, when nothing else was on, to start a scare about the Hindu peril. Confidential agents went to British Columbia to look into the trouble on behalf of the government. Their reports were duly pigeon-holed. Why the authorities were so anxious about the Hindus nobody knew, and nothing was said about it. Sometimes it was said the climate was working havoc on the Sikh. At other times the ground of complaint was that the Hindus had no work. The Hindu like the rest of us, went on, heedless of the keen interest manifested on his behalf. When it was reported that the Sikhs were starving, and everybody was feeling the effect of hard times, the Hindus, in spite of prejudice, built a meeting-house worth $7000 for the worship of God, the Father of all. How a starving people could do this is a wonder to me.

With the return of prosperity the feeling against the Japanese and Chinese died down. Each Chinaman coming to British Columbia contributed $500 to the revenue, and behind the Japanese was a powerful government, in alliance with Britain. The prejudice of Asiatic races then became somewhat concentrated upon the Sikhs, for whom, in contrast with the other Asiatics, no government representative appeared at any of the official inquiries into the circumstances of Oriental immigration. In 1908 a scheme to take the Sikhs to British Honduras was started. A Mr. Harkin, representing the Ottawa government, went to Vancouver, and, through another man, made overtures to the Sikhs, who, being naturally polite, wanted to investigate about the “promised land” as represented to them by their friends. Two representatives were sent by the Hindus of British Columbia to Honduras to look into the matter. They went there and found conditions not quite the same as they were said to be. On their return, these two men laid their report before the Hindu assembly, which was to the effect that the Sikhs who were going to be taken to Honduras were going there as indentured laborers, and thus were going to lose their liberty. The Hindus already in Honduras were in a pitiable condition. Indenture forms were ready to be signed for the men who were to go from Canada to Belize. Well has it been said, “Save us from our friends.”

The officials also went to the Vancouver Sikh temple with these delegates, and were asked to come upstairs to the open meeting and address the assembly. The Sikhs think that the authorities used ways and means which the Sikhs had never heard of before. The Sikhs, being farmers and simple by nature, believed in British justice and fair play. They had never had the experience of a real game at politics. They saw through the whole thing and decided not to go to Honduras. During all this affair the Sikhs had the help and guidance of Prof. Teja Singh, M.A., LL.B. (Harvard), for whose services at this crisis in their history the Hindus can not be too grateful.

Many of the Sikhs in Canada had fought in the British India army and had thus shown by personal sacrifice and heroism that their citizenship in the Empire was not of talk alone, but was supported by deeds. As British subjects they had a status which no subtlety on the part of the politicians could destroy. Who can forget the Sara-garhi episode and similar wonderful feats of valor on the Indian frontier? In the dark days of the Indian mutiny the Sikhs helped the British in India to the uttermost.

The Canadian government, chagrined at this failure of wholesale transferring of Hindus in Canada to British Honduras, fell back on another course of action. It was a policy of petty persecution, at least so it appeared to the Sikhs. Anybody who spoke on behalf of the Sikhs was warned. Apparently the Sikhs were good enough to fight for the Empire, but when it came to claim for equal rights, our statesmen assumed grave faces.

The Sikhs, not knowing English, had to contend with many difficulties. They could not rent houses, and therefore had to live in tumbled-down shacks, or whatever shelter they could provide to keep out the rain and cold. By the end of the year 1908 there were about 4000 Hindus, all told, in Canada. They, like any other set of people, had come at first to find out about the “new land,” and naturally, when they had found work, they wanted to get their families. In the meantime the question of Hindu immigration had assumed such proportions that the government had to formulate a policy. The Sikhs, on account of their hard labor, sober ways and frugal habits prospered. They bought land, live stock, farms, etc., and invested their hard-earned savings in this country, instead of sending it home to India. If that is a fault, we can claim our full share of it. These men from the Orient belong to an ancient civilized race, and have the shrewdness common to all men who till the soil. They made some shrewd investments, and made good. Now and again they were cheated out of their savings by unscrupulous “business” men, but they had to get this bitter experience.

The Ottawa government, to prevent the Japanese influx from Honolulu, passed an order-in-council requiring all immigrants coming to Canada to travel by a direct and continuous journey.

The government sent a special commissioner to England in 1908 to interview the Imperial authorities, and he had warned them, saying in his report that “It is within the power of a few individuals to create a situation not only prejudicial to the lives and fortunes of hundreds of well-meaning and innocent persons, but of grave concern to the British Empire itself.” In spite of this serious admonition the continuous journey clause was applied in the case of the loyal Sikhs. Further immigration from India was stopped, and the “No Hindu need apply” sign was put on the door of Canada, although the Japanese and Chinese came in their hundreds. The Sikhs, being British, became the objects of a subterfuge by which they were not to be admitted, except they had come on the same ship direct from India to Canada. We find that during the past five years only very few Hindus have come to the Dominion. So this order-in-council practically amounts to an exclusion of the Hindus.

Whilst this was going on, the Sikhs, before sending out for their families, wrote to Ottawa about the matter. They also consulted their friends in British Columbia and were advised of there being no legal barrier, for what human law can transcend God’s law and sunder the husband from his wife and child? Still there were rumors afloat that the wives and children of the Sikhs would not be admitted if they came.

In the summer of 1911, a respected and well-to-do Hindu, Hira Singh, sent for his wife. She was ordered deported. Action was taken in the courts, and after some weeks’ delay, she was allowed to remain, without the case having been tried. It was all done as “a matter of grace.” The Hindus now realized their exact position, and whilst any foreigner—the Chinese and Japanese—could get his wife and child if he could afford it, and wanted to do so, no Hindu could do so except by a special “act of grace.”

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The Sikhs and their friends sent many petitions and resolutions asking for admission of their families, but it was to no purpose. When we appealed to the British Columbia government, they said the matter was in the hands of the Dominion government. So, in the fall of 1911, the Sikhs decided appealing directly to Caesar. They sent a deputation across the continent to Ottawa. They saw the minister of the interior, who is in charge of the Immigration Department, and had two interviews with him, on November 27 and 29. Through him also they had an interview with Premier Sir R. L. Borden, who said that their case would receive due consideration. The appeal of the Hindus was two-fold, and this is what it said:

As loyal British subjects, we come to press for redress for onerous restrictions that have gradually reduced our status as British subjects below that of the most unfavored nationalities of the Orient.

1. The restriction that most presses, and needs very immediate redress, is the prohibition by regulations that make it impossible for the wives and children of the Hindustanis residing in Canada joining them. The compulsory separation of families is punitive and in itself penal, and can only lawfully be applied to criminals by any civilized nation. It is contrary to every human instinct, and jeopardizes the existence of the family life, which is the very foundation of the British Empire as a whole. The regulation presses (contrary to all preconceived ideas of British justice and fair play) hardest on the weaker of the two parties concerned, namely, the mother and the child. There are no good political, economic or racial reasons why this regulation should not be abolished. But on the other hand, there are many cogent and weighty reasons, moral, economic and imperial, why it should be. There is not a mother in Canada, looking into the eyes of her child, who would not sanction its repeal. It is well to consider, from an imperial standpoint, the reflex action of this regulation on the Sikh communities of India, who are so closely united by the bonds of their religion, whether it fosters loyalty or otherwise. Any and all of the unfavored nations of the Orient may bring their wives; is it too much to expect or ask, that a British subject may also? For the honor and welfare of the Empire, we hope not.

2. The next immigration regulation which we ask you to consider, with a view to modification or repeal, is the continuous journey restriction. First, because no law or restriction has any force which is impossible to observe. Continuous journey, as now defined, is impossible. No other country asks its own subjects to do that which, from the very nature of the case, they can not. The thinking men of India and all who are directly or indirectly affected by this order-in-council fail to understand its application, where loyal subjects of the crown are concerned; as a method of total restriction that is another matter. But, on the other hand, we would ask you to consider, Is there any process of law or regulation that can be indirectly used to strip a loyal British subject of his inherent right to travel or reside in any part of the Empire? If not, then why this restriction? Our common Sovereigns, Their Majesties, have solemnly promised all subjects of the Empire, regardless of race, equality of treatment. We request also that you remove restrictions on students, merchants and tourists entering Canada, and that they may be placed on the same footing as other nationalities at least. In the very near future the granting of this last clause will prove most advantageous from a commercial standpoint.

As the deputation wanted an answer to their petition before their return, they had another interview with the Hon. the Minister of the Interior, who, on December 15, 1911, said that the Dominion government had seen their way to grant the first part of their petition, viz., the admission of the families; but as regards the second clause, viz., the recognition of their status as British citizens, he said he would send a special investigator to the Pacific coast to look into the matter, and in due time they would hear from him on this point,

This pledge regarding the admission of families was flashed across the cables the same day, and there were rejoicings not only amongst the Hindus in British Columbia, but in far-away India as well, where His Majesty King George V was having the great Durbar at Delhi. The people in India realized that after all British justice and fair play had at last won the day.

No sooner had the deputation left Ottawa than the families of two prominent Sikhs of Vancouver, who had been waiting in Hong Kong for nearly a year, desiring admission to Canada, arrived at Vancouver in January, 1912. The immigration officials on the coast refused them landing, and ordered them deported. If ever there was a disillusion, here was one. The Sikhs, who had absolutely believed in the sacred pledge of a responsible minister of the crown, found that it was only a case of political expediency. They asked for bail, so that the families could be released pending trial. Legal machinery was set in motion. For several months the case dragged on, the government on various occasions stating it was not ready to proceed. Meanwhile our friends, the politicians, gave speeches, and various associations, through the kind and benevolent efforts, directly or indirectly, of these worthy people, passed resolutions barring the Sikhs’ families. Finally, after delay, anxiety and heavy legal expenses, the two women and their children were allowed to remain, without a decision of the court being rendered. Here was another “act of grace.” How many “acts of grace” were necessary before all the Hindus in Canada could get their families we leave it for the readers to determine. But it would require years and years, and no doubt infinite worry and anxiety. The Sikhs thought, Why does not the government say plain yes or no, and have a definite law on the subject? They felt it to be futile to attempt to reunite families under such conditions, seeing that there was an attempted deportation as soon as they came, and in spite of the word of a minister of the crown.

As a result of the treatment received in Canada many Sikhs went back to India in disgust, leaving behind landed property to take care of itself. But others, who had gone to India after many years to visit their families and relatives, and who had many interests in Canada, wanted to return. They went to the transporation companies in Calcutta, who refused to book passages to Canada. They came to Hong Kong, and were kicked about from pillar to post in their search to come to a country where they had established business, and thus had their legal domicile in Canada. This was in 1911 and 1912, as the effect of the subterfuge in the regulation providing for a continuous journey by one ship (an impossibility under existing conditions). And furthermore, it was said that the steamship companies had private instructions not to book any Hindus to Canada.

As evidence of the sincerity of the Sikhs in meeting the government half-way in arriving at a reasonable solution of this matter, they, at considerable expense, sent three representatives to lay their case before the Imperial authorities in England. These three delegates, Nand Singh Sihra, Bhai Balwant Singh, and Narain Singh, left Vancouver for London early in 1913. On their arrival there they waited upon the secretary of state for the Colonies, who would not see them. So after some time spent in England, they went to India, where they laid their case before the various bodies of Sikhs and others. They also saw His Excellency the Viceroy, Lord Hardinge, who said in reply that the case of the Canadian Sikhs would receive proper consideration. At Christmas, 1913, this delegation appeared before the representative body of all India, the Indian National Congress, who, having heard the appeal, passed a resolution asking the government of India to have these disabilities removed.

In the fall of 1913 the Sikhs took legal steps to compel the steamship companies to sell tickets for their families. Being common carriers, they had to sell transportation when money is offered. And although the company involved in this case ran steamers to Calcutta, and, over and above that, had even brought some passengers to Canada, the learned judge did not see that way, and the Sikhs lost their case. In this connection it is well to point out here what the Vancouver Province said: that some of the Sikhs say that not only are they being made subjects of false charges in the local courts, but that their relatives in India are being similarly persecuted and victimized.

A Japanese company, unexpectedly entering the field, sold tickets in the fall of 1913, and two parties of Sikhs arrived at Victoria, B. C. They were not allowed to land, and their deportation was ordered. Their friends ashore instituted legal action and secured a landing of the first party; the procedure including a writ of habeas corpus. Chief Justice Hunter of the Supreme Court of British Columbia tried the case, and decided that the order-in-council and the immigration regulation under which the deportation had been ordered were ultra vires. The Sikhs, whose right had thus been vindicated, took their place in upbuilding of the province.

The second party arrived almost simultaneously with the chief justice’s judgment, but the Immigration Department refused to acknowledge the decision of the Supreme Court, and again attempted deportation. Once more the Hindus were obliged to institute legal proceedings, including a further writ of habeas corpus. This time a second judge of the Supreme Court gave a decision similar to that of Chief Justice Hunter.

At great expense, therefore, the Sikhs, by subscription among themselves, had vindicated their right as British subjects; but all the evidence shows that discrimination against them was persisted in because they were British subjects. The financial burden thus gratuitously imposed upon them contrasted markedly with the compensation awarded the Japanese and Chinese under Royal Commission some years before—compensation which included allowance for loss of trade by Chinese opium manufacturers, against whom no deportation proceedings had been taken.

The Sikhs in British Columbia had been making representations to the Ottawa authorities regarding this invidious distinction against British subjects, but their cries were unheeded. Many of the returned Hindus had been waiting at Hongkong whilst these trials were going on in the British Columbia courts. The new Japanese steamship company, in order to avoid any further trouble with the powers that be, refused to book any more Hindus. But the decision of Chief Justice Hunter at last gave them justice and rights as British subjects. Taking it as their guide, the bolder amongst these men got together at Hong Kong and made up their minds to charter a steamer of their own. No doubt it required a lot of organization and a knowledge of Western business methods. They had some of their educated countrymen who wanted to come over and study in Canada. There were others who were merchants, and thus did not come under the immigrant class at all. And, last of all, there were the hardy Sikhs, farmers of the Punjab, inured to a cold climate, and who for the first time wanted to try their fortunes in the prairies of Canada. All this was in the early part of 1914.

No steps were taken by the government to set aside the decision of the Supreme Court; and no change worth while was made in the regulations. The two unchallenged decisions by the Supreme Court of a British country gave the Hindus absolute confidence that their right as British subjects would be respected, and that no longer would they be discriminated against in comparison with aliens from Japan, China, and elsewhere.

Acting on this, they chartered the SS. Komagata Maru, on a cooperative plan. The boat secured was a Japanese tramp steamer, which six months before had been purchased from a German company, and the Hong Kong agent for which happened to be a German. Incidentally, it is to be said that on this simple fact has been founded an allegation that the voyage of the Komagata Maru was part of a German conspiracy against the British Empire. The boat was chartered in March, 1914, nearly five months before the outbreak of war. The accusation which has been made is baseless. For even in the report on the Komagata Maru presented by the commission appointed by His Excellency the Viceroy of India, the fact is stated that this German agent was paid his commission by the Sikhs. If the travelers had been German proteges surely their friends would not have been compelled to pay part of the cost of the charter, nor would they themselves have been turned adrift to starve in Japan on their return, whence they were finally taken to India at the initiative of the British consul, and at the expense of the taxpayers of India.

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The British governor at Hong Kong, fearing that difficulty might be raised by the Canadian government, cabled a warning to Ottawa, and caused the vessel to be held while awaiting a reply. Receiving no answer for several days, the vessel left Hong Kong. In May, 1914, on the arrival at Vancouver of the Komagata Maru with 376 passengers on board, the immigration officials refused to allow any of the passengers to land, on the pretext of a medical examination —which lasted several weeks. Certain men who proved their domicile were permitted to come ashore after some delay; but as regards the rest, the immigration court of inquiry refused to give its decision in any one case till all had been tediously “investigated,” the avowed object being to wear out the patience of the Hindus, while preventing access to the courts.

The Sikhs on shore, besides paying $15,000 to the steamer’s owners, as the last payment of the charter money, subscribed funds to have the legal situation once more determined, and applied for a writ of habeas corpus, ordering witnesses to be produced in court. Their appeal to a judge of His Majesty’s court of law, petitioning to probe the proceedings of the immigration officials, produced a decision which involved the amazing doctrine that, being representatives of the crown, they were not amenable to the court, and he refused to issue a writ of habeas corpus, which, for more than two centuries, has been the guarantee that every British subject desiring to plead shall have his way to court cleared.

While this was going on, the member of Parliament for Vancouver constantly interfered, doing his best to inflame popular feeling, so as to influence the courts, and subordinate the course of justice to merely partisan and antiimperial considerations. On appeal, and during the inflammation of popular feeling, in which the member of Parliament openly used intimidatory language towards the courts, the decision of the court below was sustained.

There was now a conflict of the decisions, and the Sikhs desired to carry the case to the Privy Council, and offered to put up half a million dollars bail for the production of the men confined on theKomagata Maru. They wanted their exact status in the Empire properly settled. At every turn they were defeated. At this time one of the Hindus who had gone to Ottawa, at great personal trouble and expense, to lay the case before the Dominion government, asked for an impartial investigation of the whole case. He had interviews with the minister of the interior and the premier, but as a matter of course, was passed on to a minor official of the department. Exclusion at all hazards to the Empire was announced by the local politicians as the policy of the Dominion government.

Here is the story of the Komagata Mam, as given by a well-known Canadian lady, Mrs. Anna Ross:

One would think that the decent way for the authorities to act toward these men on the Komagata Maru} who had so accommodated themselves to the Canadian rule, would be to receive them politely, and to deal with each case fairly and squarely according to law, passing those eligible, and rejecting non eli-gibles. Then if the will of the Canadian people was still for shutting the door, to do so by straight statute, “No Hindu need apply.” After that there would at least be no misunderstanding or disappointments.

But these men who had accommodated themselves to the Canadian rule, who at a cost to themselves of nearly $57,000 had come by one continuous route, who now politely asked admission as British subjects and expected it, received instead indignity after indignity. It is almost inconceivable the lengths of which official insolence went in the treatment of these strong, proud, independent men. They were not allowed to set foot on shore at all. They were not allowed to communicate with the Sikhs on shore at all. They were not allowed to communicate with their own lawyer. Even when their case for admission was in court, their lawyer, Mr. Bird, was not allowed a personal interview with any of them, so that he was conducting their case in the dark. After the case was decided under these circumstances against them, Mr. Bird was allowed to visit them, and discovered that very important elements in the case he had not understood at all, and had not presented. If this is Canadian justice, it is not British justice.

When the case had been decided against them they expressed their willingness to leave, only requesting that they should be supplied with provisions for the return voyage. The immigration authorities refused provisions, but tried to compel the captain of the ship to sail at once. Though they had been unnecessarily delayed by the authorities for six weeks, these officials endeavored to force them to commence their long voyage without provisions. This roused the man and the soldier in these Sikhs, and they prevented the captain from obeying. A hundred and seventy-five policemen and the stream from a fire hose only roused them the more. They beat back the policemen with fire-bricks and lumps of coal. Then in the dignity of her might Canada ordered the cruiser Rainbow to proceed alongside the Komagata Maru and compel submission. By this time the inhuman attempt to send 350 men across the Pacific starving had been abandoned, and offers of abundant provisions were made. But by this time the fighting blood of the Sikhs was up. They knew they had been barbarously treated by representatives of the Canadian government, and they were resolved to put no trust in any offers now made to them, but just to fight and die, if need be.

That was the position Canada found herself in July 22, 1914. The guns of the Rainbow were trained on the little Komagata Maru. The Sikhs on board her had used timber to construct barricades, and the blacksmiths among them were working at fever heat making swords and pikes. The Government then in extremity sought the good offices of the Sikhs on shore, and though they had refused to allow them intercourse with the men on the Komagata Maru before, they were now glad to have a deputation of shore Sikhs endeavor to convince them that the government this time was really acting in good faith, to accept the offers of provisions, and leave. They were finally sucessful, and the little ship sailed away.

It is a sad story. It is a shameful story. They could at least have been treated courteously and given a chance to plead their own cause fairly, even if the law had refused them admission in the end.

It may be well to mention here that the degradation of British prestige by demagoguery assuming the functions of authority, was made shamefully apparent to other nations. During the trouble several Japanese cruisers appeared, and the politicians appealed to Ottawa to request that foreign crews should board a vessel in a British harbor, subdue by arms British passengers, and forcibly escort them across the ocean. What transpired in this connection, we know not; but the whole thing is so singular that I am sometimes tempted to think that only an Oriental mind can grasp the effect produced on the shrewd, diplomatic Japanese nation of this attempt on the part of our esteemed friends, the politicians. I am sure I shall be forgiven for calling attention to this matter, for my excuse is that native-born members of the Empire in Asia have a stake in its standing among the Asiatic peoples, even though in British Columbia neither education, nor property, nor medals won by valor for the Empire, can procure a Hindu a vote, though two Hindus have sat in the Imperial House of Commons.

Of the plight of the men on board the Komagata Maru, their enforced confinement within a vessel for months, and the inevitable effect of the news in India, I do not now speak. But it is not to be denied that politicians and their minions usurped the essential authority of the law, and caused British subjects on a vessel in a British harbor to be treated as none has been treated with impunity within sight of a British shore since the slave trade was suppressed.

In this connection it is well to mention here that the government had passed an order-in-council prohibiting the entry to British Columbia of immigrants of the laboring classes. They knew very well if European immigrants were to come to British Columbia they would not try to enter it through British Columbia ports, but by ports on the Atlantic coast. In all legislation there is a principle of equity and justice, and laws have to be made in such a way that people can, under ordinary circumstances, fulfil them. Whilst the Komagata Maru was lying off Vancouver harbor, the British subjects on board her had the mortification of seeing over five hundred Chinamen land without a hindrance raised. I make no invidious comparison between them and my own countrymen, but will quote from the exclusionistVictoria (B. C.) Times’ account of the Komagata Maru passengers on the day of their arrival:

When the Times7 launch slipped alongside the steamship the men were lined along the bulwarks of the forward and after wells. They presented a very brilliant spectacle as the many different colored turbans moved quickly and silently about. The men were dressed in various colors. There were some in complete European outfits, others wearing riding breeches and helmets, numbers with Mohammedan red caps pressed tightly down on their thick black hair, still others in native costumes, and a few wearing khaki uniforms, which they had used when serving in the army.

The majority of the men have served in the British army, and they are a tall and handsome lot. They seem superior to the class of Hindus which have already come to this province. They stand very erect and move with an alert action. All their suits were well pressed and their turbans spotlessly clean. The most of them know a little of the English language, and some of them converse in it remarkably well. Of the 376 who comprise the party, but 21 have been in Canada before. In the party are students, merchants .... in fact represent every class in India.

As showing the spirit which governed the treatment of these men in the name of the Canadian people, I may quote further:

This morning a party of local Hindus left here in a launch and attempted to go alongside the Komagata Maru. Rev. Mr. Hall was in the craft. Their intentions were not stated. The patrol boat overhauled the intruders, and a severe reprimand was given them by Dr. Milne, the immigration agent. None of the Hindus is desirous of making his escape. They all wish to go through with the matter in a perfectly open manner.

Mrs. Elizabeth Ross Grace last summer wrote regarding the Sikhs to a church paper:

Your last issue referring to the Komagata Maru incident says: “Gurdit Singh can now write: 'Veni, vidi, nonvici’—almost Caesar.” Permit me to say that it is a deep and disturbing conviction that he can quote Caesar exactly. He got what he wanted. Those whom he represented cared nothing for the poor men who hoped to enter the fair Dominion. But they did want to force Canada to a clearly defined position.

Thus far Canada has contented herself with indirect methods of exclusion. None of the three orders-in-council which discriminate against the Hindu mention him. But they accomplish

the work of exclusion just the same. Now, however, Canada has come out plainly—with troops and warship. The time-expired soldiers in the ships’ company were given indisputable evidence of the lengths Canada would go to keep them out. Why tarry longer? He got what he came for. Imperial and Christian considerations alike should have made this affair impossible. But there was dominant the little Canada spirit. It is splendid, now, to come to the aid of the Motherland. Our brave men and our shiploads of flour mean much in this hour of need. But it would mean vastly more to the Empire if the Komagata Maru incident could be obliterated. Instead, it is a living, growing, disintegrating force.....

But they (the Hindus) are declared “undesirable”—a cruelly suggestive description, because positive, yet vague. It seems strange that the government of British Columbia is so earnest in its effort to purge the land of these men, when we remember the last report of the Social and Moral Reform League. In this report we are told that vice in British Columbia is protected by the government, and reform measures opposed bitterly. Yet those who know the Hindus best testify to the fact that there is surprisingly little criminality among them.

It is said that they will not assimilate. I have watched with wonder and delight the process of assimilation. Given fair conditions and they do adapt themselves rapidly. Their eagerness to learn, to fit into the new order, was to me surprising, as I watched them in California. After knowing such types in India, it was a surprise to watch especially the psychological process of assimilation. A few positive results mean much more than scores of negative results. If they are not assimilating, the un-Christian atmosphere in which they live must explain it.

Never have I seen such opportunities of helping India as amongst her lonely sons on the Pacific coast. They were eager to learn, respectful and earnest. But times are changing, and the un-Christian attitude of our land is fixing a wide—may it not prove an impassable!—gulf between Canada and India.

That racial prejudice and passion let loose on the coast in the summer of 1914 was altogether overdone is the opinion of competent people. They say there is already a reaction. A well-known Canadian, in the course of a recent letter to the writer, says:

I am quite free to inform you that in my opinion the treatment of the East Indians in the province of British Columbia has not been of the best, and the Federal authorities, without question in my mind, have never understood the situation, nor have they tried to understand the people themselves. This is to be accounted for from the fact that the officials who were in the various departments of the Government are in my opinion (and I say without any hesitation) incompetent, and also have made no effort to understand the people, but have assumed a good many things to be true that are not true.

How far the incompetency enters into the case the writer is not prepared to state, but he leaves it for the readers to decide the matter. He lays before the public this opinion for what it is worth.

Another friend from Vancouver writes especially regarding the Komagata Maru:

I feel that the effect of the inhuman treatment that was accorded the Hindus by the Canadian authorities is going to have a far-reaching effect. The Singapore incidents and the other troubles in India are, I believe, the direct outcome of the unfortunate episode. I am of the opinion that the Sikhs came to Vancouver really believing that the doors of Canada were wide open for their entry, after the decision of the chief justice in the Narain

Singh case.....I    blame Mr. H. H. Stevens for all this unfortunate episode. Nothing could exceed the tenacity with which he fought the affair.

Mr. Stevens, is the member of Parliament for Vancouver in the Dominion House of Commons.

The Komagata Maru has left unpleasant results as the three conspiracy trials in Lahore, India, the last of which was decided only this month. Its effects have been seen in the Mandalay case and elsewhere. This ship will go down in history like the other famous ship which came to Boston laden with tea.

I may here state the great ability of the Sikhs in adapting themselves to the conditions in Canada which were new to them. How, not knowing the language, they started night schools for learning English. Many have gone back to India and have been zealous in providing education for the boys and girls in the villages by starting schools. In one notable case they have sent more than $15,000 and started an excellent high school in the Punjab. The writer knows the case of a young Hindu, eighteen years of age, who by his pluck and industry is supporting himself and acquiring English in a high school and thus fitting himself for better service. Not only have the Sikhs in Canada helped in starting schools for their children, know-mg full well the difficulties they had to contend with on account of their not having the opportunity, but they have also helped in giving to the villagers and stay-at-homes in India some idea of the great Western world. As a matter of fact the returned emigrants have except in rare instances shown genuine desire for reform, and thus served as vehicles for carrying western civilization to these out of the way and remote villages. Some have taken with them to India agricultural machinery and implements, and are thus fitting themselves to be better farmers.

In 1908 they started a colonization company on a cooperative plan. With that end in view two hundred acres were bought near Vancouver, where the Sikhs out of employment could get work, but of late years things have improved, and they have had all the work they wanted.

Many of them have bought land and put up houses here. Their holdings in land, houses, live stock (as many of them have quite a few dairy cattle), horses and wagons, etc., amount to at least $2,000,000. I have heard white grocers and others say that they would trust a Sikh and continue doing business with him, as over and over again it has happened that after being in debt for one or two years he will come and pay his debts to the grocer and storekeeper. There are no paupers amongst the Sikhs, as their system of practical self-help insures that those who have been unfortunate in being out of work, or on account of some accident, are duly cared for by the well-to-do members of the community. They have put up considerable sums to help the weaker brethren in divers ways. The Hindus have spent over $250,000 in their struggle for justice.

And this reminds me of the case of nearly ninety Hindus who were held up by the authorities at the port of Seattle, Washington, and ordered to be deported until each of them put up a security of $500 cash. To show the Hindus’ self-help their friends in British Columbia, with great generosity characteristic of them, supplied the forthcoming money to the tune of nearly $50,000 and had these men released on bail in the fall of 1913. In addition to this the Sikhs have built temples in Vancouver, Victoria, New Westminster and Abbotsford, all in British Columbia. The one at Victoria cost over $10,000. These are open to the public.

Speaking about the Hindus Mr. W. W. Baer, a well-known Canadian journalist, said:

I could print a hundred letters telling me of the faithfulness of the Hindu in his service to his employer; the reliance that may be safely placed upon him at his work, and his unshrinking application of his strength to his varied tasks. Altogether my opinion is, that of the several racial types who have crossed the Pacific Ocean to participate in our great toil of reducing this Western province to its final productive power, the Hindu is the most desirable.

And now a few words about the Sikhs will be useful. What are they? The Sikhs come from the Punjab in North India. As there was a Reformation in Europe, so there was one in India, and about the same time, viz., in the fifteenth century. A great teacher or Guru by the name of Baba Nanak was born in a village near Lahore. He taught the unity of all religions, the brotherhood of man, raising the outcasts and abolition of the caste system, equality of sexes in divine worship, and doing away with idol worship. Nanak wanted all races and sects to unite in the spirit of service. The Sikh worship is very democratic, and the spirit of self-sacrifice is the dominant characteristic. He taught belief in One God, the Father of all. This pure teaching could not but reform the whole Hindu social system. All his followers were known as Sikhs or disciples. There were nine more teachers, the last of whom was Guru Govind Singh, who in order to protect the religious brotherhood from bigotry within the Hindu system, and persecution from without from the authorities of the day, organized the Sikhs into a strong militant body known as the Khalsa, or the Elect Fellowship. He instituted the Khanda di pahul or baptism of the sword, whereby a Sikh became a member of the great Khalsa brotherhood for help of the weak, the fallen and the oppressed. Moreover Sikhs are farmers, a kind of people which a young country especially needs in her development.

In face of the high ideals of Sikhs especially, it is surprising when a Canadian member of Parliament gives out a challenge that Hindu civilization has done nothing to uplift the other races of the world, and has produced nothing. That is a libel upon a whole nation, and, leaving aside what India has stood for in the past, we point to the most recent example, Rabindranath Tagore, the Hindu poet, who in 1913 won the Nobel Prize in literature.

Speaking about Tagore. Miss Gertrude V. Jamieson who saw him in Seattle, Washington, in September, 1916, asked him if he would visit Canada, and he said most emphatically “No!” He would never visit Canada on account of the manner in which his countrymen had been treated by the Canadians. He said he had been invited to both Toronto and Montreal, but refused to go, and he wishes this published and generally known. He said he was asked to go ashore at Victoria, British Columbia, but refused. He said he would never set foot on Canadian soil or that of Australia, while his countrymen were treated as they were. He said, of course, things would not change until the psychology of nations was changed.

Regarding the equal status of Hindus and other British subjects the Queen’s Proclamation of 1858 is quite emphatic and clear. It reads:

We hold ourselves bound to the natives of our Indian territories by the same obligations of duty which bind us to all our other subjects.....

This is truly called the Magna Charta of the Indian people. To the Hindus it has not been a mere “scrap of paper.” In spite of this the Sikhs in Canada have not even fared as well as the Chinese and Japanese. Whilst from 1908 to 1914, during 6 years, 28,525 Chinese, and during the same interval 3548 Japanese entered Canada, only 117 Hindus were allowed to enter the Dominion. Each Chinaman on admission has to pay a tax of $500. Who pays this tax is quite a different story. A Japanese has only to show $50 in his possession when landing in Canada, a Sikh must have $200,000. All this is not in the spirit of the Queen’s proclamation.

The Hindus believe the Great War which ought to be really called the Great Change will help in solving this question as a writer said in a letter to the Toronto Globe:

This great episode in human history does not throw primarily upon us the necessity to appeal for a hearing from you, our fellow-subjects. We could be excused for waiting till the bloodshed is ended, and to leave it to you to make the next move. But we think more of what is involved in this matter than some of the politicians do, to whom India is a sealed and mysterious book, even when they talk about the Empire, three-fourths of whose population is in that country. So we are willing to make the first advances, even to the extent of appealing for a hearing in places where men and women gather together.....

Believe me, this is of deep Imperial significance, and our people will be greatly disappointed if Canada will not meet us half-way in settling the difficulties which have hitherto beset our relationships as fellow-subjects in the Empire.


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