Collections

The Komagata Maru: Continuing the Journey digital collection includes material from several distinct collections described below.

If you would like to view all of the items from a particular collection, click on “more options” under the search box in the left menu. Once you are on the new search page, enter the name of the collection exactly as listed below into the search box, then select the “as phrase” option and click on the “Search” button.

Arjan Singh Brar Collection

In 2014, nearly 100 years after the Komagata Maru episode, Mr. Amarjit Singh Brar and his family donated to Simon Fraser University Library, Special Collections and Rare Books a suitcase full of his father’s documents, scrapbooks, diaries, photographs and other unique items chronicling the history of South Asians in Vancouver from the time of the Komagata Maru. Arjan Singh Brar originally came to Canada in 1926. An active member of the pioneer South Asian Canadian community, he held numerous roles with the Khalsa Diwan Society at Vancouver’s first Sikh Temple located at 1866 West 2nd Avenue, and was at the centre of the religious, political, economic and social life of the community.

The heart of this collection is Arjan Singh Brar’s diary. Started in the 1920’s, it documents the history of the community beginning in 1904 and ending in 1947. Penned with his careful hand, this diary combines a record of the official life of a Temple executive with the chronicles of an astute historian documenting the daily lives of early South Asian immigrants in Vancouver. Included are day to day accounts of the Temple Committee and funds raised for charitable causes, anecdotes about life in Vancouver, and photographs of the historic 2nd Avenue Gurdwara. A significant highlight of the diary is its account of the Komagata Maru episode from a South Asian perspective – recorded chronologically is the community’s response to the ship’s arrival, including the activities of the Shore Committee, and events leading to the ship’s eventual departure.

Among the many other special items in the collection are:

  • An alternate version of the Komagata Maru passenger list in Punjabi
  • Letters from J. Edward Bird, the attorney for the Komagata Maru passengers, to the Khalsa Diwan Society of Vancouver concerning Bird’s correspondence with Gurdit Singh and his son Balwant Singh
  • Scrapbooks filled with newspaper clippings documenting early South Asian history in Vancouver, in particular the Komagata Maru incident
  • Original diary of the United India Home Rule League of Canada and the Hindustani Swaraj Sabha in Vancouver, associations that gave birth to the Ghadar movement
  • Passport of Bhag Singh, 1927
  • Petition by the Khalsa Diwan Society of B.C.to the Government of B.C. for the right to vote in 1942
  • Rare 1949 recording of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s speech at the 2nd Avenue Temple

Canadian Farmworkers Union Collection

The Canadian Farmworkers Union (CFU) and its partners advocated for improved working conditions and housing for farmworkers, addressed health concerns such as pesticide exposure, and promoted cultural and educational rights and services, while fighting a historical discrimination enshrined in Canadian laws. The origins of the CFU can be traced to an initial meeting of South Asian community activists in September 1978 at a school in Surrey, British Columbia. The CFU held its founding convention on April 6, 1980, and in July of that same year achieved a first union certification of farmworkers. By the end of the year, CFU Local 1 signed its historic first collective agreement for farmworkers in Canada.

During the 1980’s, the CFU became a prominent force in organizing all ethnic groups of farmworkers in B.C. and Ontario. In 1993, B.C.’s New Democratic government extended health and safety regulations to agricultural workers — a change driven by the CFU and the broad social movement that rallied workers and consumers for farmworkers’ justice. In 2003, basic employment standard laws to farm workers were denied and the hard-won rights of hourly paid farm workers to earn statutory holiday pay, a minimum crop rate or overtime pay were rolled back.

Digitized here is a representative selection of more than 700 publications, documents, photographs, audio recordings, oral history interviews and other significant items from the complete Canadian Farmworkers Union archival collection held by Simon Fraser University Library, Special Collections and Rare Books.

D.P. Pandia Collection

The D.P. Pandia Collection consists of digitized photographs, documents, and objects documenting the activities of Dr. Durai Pal Pandia. A lawyer and activist, Dr. Pandia was instrumental in the obtaining of the right to vote by the South Asian community in Canada in 1947 and improvements to the rights of immigrants in Canada. The material was contributed for digitization by his daughter Aruna Pandia. Others records relating to Dr. Pandia may be found in other collections on this website, including an audio recording of a 1974 interview with Pandia in the Kohaly Collection and an interview with Aruna Pandia in the Video section of this website.

Henry Herbert Stevens fonds

Digitized here are the contents of several complete files from the Henry Herbert (H.H.) Stevens fonds held by the City of Vancouver Archives: “Hindu Immigration”, “Komagata Maru”, “Hindu Franchise; Immigration”, “Immigration; Vancouver Port Facilities”, and “Newsclippings”. Stevens was an opponent of Asian Immigration to Canada and a Conservative M.P. for Vancouver at the time of the Komagata Maru incident. Pertaining specifically to the Komagata Maru and to Asian immigration in general, the records include correspondence, reports, notes and other documents created by or concerning many of the key players in the incident, including government officials such as Stevens and Prime Minister Robert Borden, Department of Immigration officials, including Malcolm Reid and William Hopkinson, passengers such as Gurdit Singh and Dr. Raghunath Singh, and their lawyer J. Edward Bird. Also included in the files are court transcripts, minutes of board proceedings, minutes of meetings at Dominion Hall, and a file of clippings about the Komagata Maru collected by Stevens from local newspapers. The entire incident is documented in these records from the perspective of a local federal government official.

Hugh Johnston Komagata Maru Research Collection

This collection consists of over 3,000 pages of research material collected by Hugh Johnston while conducting research for his book The Voyage of the Komagata Maru. Included are copies of documents from the Public Archives of Canada (Library & Archives Canada), National Archives of India, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, and the City of Vancouver Archives, often with Johnston’s annotations. These records include correspondence and reports of government officials, in particular those working for the Department of Immigration, court records, minutes of board proceedings and other meetings, and copies of journals and newspaper clippings.

Indo-Canadian Oral History Collection

This collection from the Simon Fraser University Archives is made up of two separate projects to interview early South Asian settlers in Canada, almost all of them British Columbians. Dr. Hari Sharma, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Simon Fraser University, led a project to document the histories of immigrants from the Punjab Province of India who came to Canada between 1912 and 1938. The interviews were conducted by Dr. Sharma and his graduate students between 1984 and 1987. These interviews are numbered 1 through 19. A second project includes 32 interviews with Sikh immigrants who arrived in Canada prior to 1956. This project was conducted by Dr. Gurcharn S. Basran and Dr. B. Singh Bolaria in 1986. These interviews are numbered 20 through 52.

The interviews cover reasons for immigration to Canada and conditions and regulation of their entry into Canada. Interviewees also discuss work and living experiences once in Canada; labour, legal and political issues that affected the immigrants; relations with other racial and ethnic groups; family life and adjustment to Canadian society; and ongoing links to their country of origin. Almost all interviews were conducted in Punjabi, with a few in English and Hindi.

To increase usability, the collection also includes searchable summaries or full transcripts in English, French, and in some cases Punjabi. Many of the experiences of these pioneers are virtually unknown to today’s British Columbians: the lack of citizenship rights; the denial of entry for women; restrictions on wearing turbans and non-western dress. Taken together, the collection offers an unparalleled glimpse into the world of first-generation South Asian immigrants in their own words.

Kohaly Collection

Digitized here are several photographs and journals documenting the early South Asian community in British Columbia from the Kohaly Collection held by Simon Fraser University Library, Special Collections and Rare Books. Included are images of community members at the earliest Sikh temples in British Columbia, including those at Vancouver, Victoria, Hillcrest and Ocean Falls; the Sikh regiment in B.C. after Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1897; lumber mill workers and their families; passengers of the Panama Maru at the detention centre in Victoria; the funeral procession of Mewa Singh in 1915; community leaders; and visits of political leaders, including Jawaharlal Nehru.