Roche, W.J. (1859-1937)

William James Roche, was the Minister of the Interior at the time of the Komagata Maru. He was born at the rural crossroads of Clandeboyne, near the town of Lucan and thirty kilometers from the city of London, Ontario. He studied medicine at Trinity Medical College in Toronto before going west in 1883 to practice medicine in the newly incorporated town of Minnedosa, Manitoba. He made an unsuccessful bid for election to the Manitoba legislature in 1892 and then represented Marquette, Manitoba, in the Canadian House of Commons from 1896 to 1917. He entered the cabinet in 1911 and served as Minister of the Interior from 1912 to 1917, with a portfolio that included the immigration department and the issues associated with the Komagata Maru. From a distance in Ottawa, he appeared to have full confidence in the Vancouver immigration office under Malcolm Reid up to the time of the Komagata Maru. The Vancouver lawyer and sometime special government commissioner, T.R.E. MacInnes, talked to him in the fall of 1913 and was dismayed by how unperturbed Roche was following the deportation of the agitator Bhagwan Singh, which MacInnes himself felt had done great damage to the immigration department’s relations to the Sikhs in Vancouver.

Sources: C.W. Parker ed., Who is Who in Western Canada, vol. 1 (Vancouver: Canadian Press Association, 1911); J.K. Johnson ed., The Canadian Directory of Parliament, 1867-1967 (Ottawa: Library and Archives Canada, 1968); W. Stewart Wallace, The Macmillan Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Toronto: Macmillan, 1963); Library and Archives Canada, Borden Papers, T.R.E. McInnes of Vancouver to the Prime Minister of Canada, Sir Robert Borden, 2 December 1914.