Have immigration policies always supported Canada’s ideal of an inclusive, multicultural society?
This lesson uses the Komagata Maru incident as a vehicle for exploring Canadian immigration policies in the early 20th century and their lasting impacts.
Canada’s Immigration Policies and the Komagata Maru (DOCX | 203 KB)
Canada’s Immigration Policies and the Komagata Maru (PDF | 327 KB)
Introduce the activity with the big question and the idea of beginning to look at Canada’s immigration policies through the Komagata Maru incident.
Have students start a Know Wonder Learn (KWL) chart to guide their discovery by filling in what they may already know about the Komagata Maru. If they have no knowledge of the incident, that’s fine.
Display the two political cartoons either by projecting or printing. Have students choose one cartoon and gather at the cartoon of their choice with other students to discuss what they think the cartoon is about. You may use the following guiding questions to help discussions:
Then have each group report out to the class on what they think their cartoon means.
Have students continue filling in their KWL chart as they view the video The Sikh Migrants Who Challenged Canadian Immigration Law (7:01).
Provide the opportunity add these questions to the “Wonder” column of their KWL chart.
Have students work individually or in small groups to fill in the Immigration Acts and Legislation table using the following two resources:
Have students either discuss the following as a class or group or write down their answers as a group or individually:
Have students use their KWL chart as they read the following articles to gain insight into the experiences of those who were aboard:
Have students imagine themselves as one of the passengers on the ship and describe their experience through diary entries, paneled illustrations (comic book), ballad, PowerPoint presentation or other medium of choice. Items to address include:
Have students present their stories to the class (opportunity for teacher or peer assessment) or within a group (opportunity for peer assessment), using a rubric for presentations that you have co-created with the class.
Note: This activity is recommended for Grade 12 students because of the complexity of the court document. However, you may choose to adapt this portion for other grades.
Have students explore the Munshi Singh court ruling document, Munshi Singh (Re), 1914 CanLII 679 (BC CA). Munshi Singh was the only test case from the passengers of Komagata Maru. The outcome determined the fate of all of the passengers. Focus on the judge’s ruling (not the whole document—refer to pages 1,380-1,381). You may choose to review other sections of the document as well.
Direct students to appeal the court’s decision, either individually or in small groups:
As a class, watch Justin Trudeau Apologizes in the House for the 1914 Komagata Maru Incident (9:23).
In small groups, have students research other groups that have had apologies made to them in the House of Commons, and list them in the House of Commons Apologies table.
Class or group discussion:
Assign or have each group choose a policy. Have groups locate the apology video and/or the transcript to analyze their apology, using the following questions:
Have each group present their findings to the class in a presentation format of their choice.
Introduce the activity to students:
You’ve learned about the challenges, obstacles and hardships that South Asian settler pioneers faced immigrating to a new country 110 years ago. Your task is to create a first-hand account of someone who has come to Canada. This can be someone you know (such as a family member or friend) or someone from a (non-fiction) book or online source. The goal is to tell their story based on their journey, struggles and achievements. Before interviewing someone, if you’re telling the story of someone you know, be sure to ask for permission to use their story for this project.
Develop interview questions based on what you wonder about the person’s immigration story. Here are some examples:
You can pick any presentation method that you like (such as, Prezi, PowerPoint, poster, movie, storybook).
Your finished project must include the following:
Consider conducting any of the following place-based activities or visits with your students, or have them do them on their own:
Have students do the following:
Define resilience and resistance. How are they different?
Brainstorm examples of both resilience and resistance—are there examples of actions that have been or are both?
Explore the Komagata Maru incident and identify examples of both resilience and resistance.
In small groups, discuss the following questions and create an output (e.g., paper, video, poster, graphic) outlining the key points of their discussions:
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