McKelvie, B.A. (1889-1960)

Bruce Alistair McKelvie was a twenty-five year old police reporter for the Vancouver Daily Province at the time of the Komagata Maru. His beat made him familiar with South Asians who ran afoul of the law and ended up in court. And he lived one block from the Sikh gurdwara on West Second Avenue and saw some of the comings and goings there. Years later he published a newspaper article based on his memory of the Komagata Maru and this was included in a posthumous collection of his stories under the general title of Magic, Murder and Mystery. In this article he describes tagging along with immigration officials when they dashed from Vancouver to Victoria to see the early morning arrival of the Komagata Maru; he was on the tugboat Sea Lion, when police tried to board the Komagata Maru; and he says that he was walking by the Vancouver gurdwara at the very moment of the Bela Singh shooting and heard the shots. McKelvie is the source of the story—improbable on many counts—that Inspector Hopkinson would dress as a Sikh and stay in a shack in South Vancouver to spy on the South Asian community (Hopkinson conducted his surveillance through informants and was too well known in the small South Asian community to have done it any other way).

McKelvie was born in British Columbia shortly after his Scottish-Canadian parents arrived from Quebec. His father was a machinist and McKelvie got into newspaper work at an early age as a printer’s apprentice. He had held many newspaper jobs by the time he started at the Province in May 1913—one year before the arrival of the Komagata Maru. During his career he worked for both the Sun and the Province newspapers in Vancouver, and the Colonist in Victoria; and he made a name for himself as a popularizer of British Columbia history.

Sources: website; archivescanada website: Bruce Alistair McKelvie fonds, biographical note: website; B.S. McKelvie, Magic Murder and Mystery (Duncan, B.C.: Cowichan Leader, 1966); Manuscript Census, Canada