Documents

“Later when I visited the murderer in his cell and shortly before his execution, he spoke to me of some property which he wished to have disposed of in the interests of his family in India.” Kenneth James Grant, My Missionary Memories (187)

Born in Halifax in the middle of the nineteenth century, Reverend Kenneth James Grant is one of Canada’s most celebrated Presbyterian missionaries. He spent the majority of his life founding and running the Susamachar Church in Trinidad and his specific purpose in Trinidad was to convert British Indian indentured labourers of Hindu and Muslim faiths to Christianity. His autobiography is filled with stories of his successes.

Brought out of retirement in 1913 to help convert Vancouver Sikhs to Christianity, he describes a city full of racial distrust and political unrest. Grant places the root cause of the unrest at the unjust laws that Canada had set up against Sikhs. This chapter is particularly insightful for illustrating the context of Vancouver in 1913-1914. He writes about the creation of the Ghadar Party and the spread of Ghadar newspapers throughout Vancouver. He documents the arrival of the Komagata Maru and how Canada was wrong by denying the passengers entry. He even goes on to cite newspaper editorials from that time supporting the suitability of Sikhs to Canada.

Importantly, he also mentions the series of murders that took place in Vancouver in the wake of the Komagata Maru and focuses particular attention on the shooting of Inspector William Hopkinson by Mewa Singh. Most importantly, Reverend Grant is able to meet with Mewa Singh and preserves his conversation.

Secondly is the mention of the “unfaithful” Samuel Jagat Singh who it turns out, is Reverend Grant’s only Christian convert. Mewa Singh and Samuel Jagat Singh used to share a bunkhouse together with several other Sikhs. Grant’s audience is the larger non-Sikh community and he uses the Mewa Singh story as a segue into describing Samuel’s road to conversion and the (at times violent) hardships he faced along the way.

Similarly, Sadhu Singh Dhami’s Sikhs And Their Religion is an attempt to “introduce” Sikhs to a larger community. Written in the midst of World War Two and distributed for free by the Khalsa Diwan Society, the book describes at length the Sikh faith and the recent history of Punjab. The Canadian context of this story is illuminated by a foreword by journalist Elmore Philpott who describes being rescued by Sikh soldiers in World War One and gaining an appreciation for Vancouver Sikhs. Including some rare photographs of Sikhs in battle, Dhami notes that the main concern for Canadian Sikhs is regaining the right to vote as they continue to be a strong ally against fascism. A scholar of great renown, Sadhu Singh Dhami spent his later years as a diplomat for the United Nations in Geneva.