November 17, 2008

Building Solidarity

Between the South Asian Community and Indigenous Community

South Asians first arrived in Canada at the end of the nineteenth century, and by 1908, approximately 5,000 were reported to be resident in British Columbia. That year, the Canadian government introduced the Continuous Journey requirement seeking to prohibit further South Asian migration into the country. In 1914, Gurdit Singh, a Punjabi, chartered the Komagata Maru and a group of 376 South Asians passengers sailed to Canada to challenge this racist law.  Although they were forced to return to India, they dealt a serious blow to the ‘Keep Canada White’ policies of the white settler society.

A group of South Asian academics, activists and community groups have come together to organize a week-long series of events in November (17- 23), 2008, to mark over one hundred years of South Asian presence in Canada, and to commemorate the 100th year anniversary of the Continuous Journey requirement. These events will pay homage to the struggles waged by South Asian communities in the past, celebrate our achievements, and build alliances as we face the challenges of the 21st century.

Dr. Sunera Thobani, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia, and one of the organizers of the event, stressed the importance of recognizing the Aboriginal community, whose land we all use. "It's really important that we have a dialogue in this country that builds solidarity between the South Asians and the Aboriginal people, because they are still struggling for their rights," she said. Thobani said that South Asians and the Aboriginal community have both been racialized in different ways, and by helping end racial discrimination towards other communities, the South Asian community can help end discrimination towards itself.

On Friday the 21st at the Vancouver Public Library at 6:30PM, I will be speaking alongside Kabir Joshi-Vijayan, a Toronto Grade 10 student from the Toronto Haiti Action Committee. He will give a keynote talk on the "The Myth of the Model Immigrant." Joshi-Vijayan is a coordinator of the Toronto Haiti Action Committee, and also a co-producer and co-host of a radio program.

I will be speaking about racist and colonial legacy for indigenous peoples on this lands and working to build solidarity between the indigenous community and the South Asian community in working together in our struggles and against the forces that marginalize our communities.


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