Cover story published in 24 Hours Vancouver | December 6, 2013 | Circulation: 280,000+
Syndicated on Sun News Network
Police are investigating photos of a man who allegedly urinated on the memorial for the 1914 Komagata Maru on the Vancouver waterfront after the shots circulated online.
Longshoreman Pargan Mattu was snapping pictures of the large plaque near the Convention Centre Monday afternoon with a visitor from India, when he said a man in his thirties approached them and asked, “What are you guys trying to prove?”
According to Mattu, the man threw his soccer ball at the memorial, but he and his guest were not prepared for what happened next.
“He started (peeing) on the memorial,” he recalled. “He said, ‘I can do anything I want. I can (pee) here 40,000 times.’
“I felt embarrassed and ashamed. It’s a memorial of our pioneers … This was supposed to be for local people to have knowledge of it and to show respect for them. It doesn’t matter if it’s an East Indian, Chinese or white memorial, everybody should be concerned.”
The plaque, installed in July 2012, features photographs commemorating the 376 Punjabi migrants who were detained and deported by Canada over 100 year ago. The passengers were making an attempt to challenge the country’s exclusionary laws of the day against Asian and South Asian immigrants. News of the alleged desecration spread rapidly on social media among the South Asian community and anti-racist activists.
Vancouver Police Department Sgt. Randy Fincham said the force is trying to identify the man to determine if he was aware of the significance of the memorial, which would inform if the alleged act would also qualify as a targeted hate crime.
India Radio host Gurpreet Singh said the memorial is about Canada’s history of racism, and that the alleged desecration disrespects those who “chartered the ship as an act of resistance.”
“This shows that racism is not going away, it’s still there,” he said. “Our focus is to educate people, to make him realize that what he did was wrong.
“He should be made to study the history of the Komagata Maru and given the opportunity to do community service so he can learn more about our community.”