BC Social Studies Lesson Plans

Komagata Maru Incident

Grade 5


Komagata Maru Incident

Big Idea

Canada’s policies and treatment of minority peoples have negative and positive legacies.

Essential Question

How have past governments of Canada used laws to discriminate against Canadian citizens?

Learning Standards Content

Students are expected to know the following:

  • past discriminatory government policies and actions, such as the Head Tax, the Komagata Maru incident, residential schools, and internments

Curricular Competencies

Students are expected to be able to do the following:

  • Sequence objects, images, and events, and recognize the positive and negative aspects of continuities and changes in the past and present (continuity and change)
  • Make ethical judgments about events, decisions, or actions that consider the conditions of a particular time and place, and assess appropriate ways to respond (ethical judgement)

Core Competencies

I can describe ways that laws were used to exclude Asian people from entering Canada.

I can evaluate how Canadian immigration policies have changed over time.

I can explain why it is important to apologize for past wrongs.

First People's Principles of Learning

Learning is embedded in memory, history, and story.
  • Show the 2 minute video Push Pull Factors in Immigration about the history of immigration to Canada.
  • Ask: Why would people want to leave their home countries? Why would people choose Canada as their new home?

Engage students in discussion of the following questions:

  • Has Canada always welcomed people who want to come here?
  • Has Canada treated immigrants fairly?

Part One: What is Discrimination?

  • Begin by asking students what discrimination means. Provide a definition of discrimination as “an action or a decision that treats a person or a group badly for reasons such as their age or skin colour”.
  • Organize students in groups of 4 or 5. Provide 5 minutes for groups to list ways a person could experience discrimination.
  • Have groups take turns sharing examples. Do not allow repetition.
  • Explain that the Canadian Human Rights Act protects people against discrimination based on a number of reasons.
  • Provide students with a copy of the Grounds for Discrimination Chart and Examples of Discrimination. Have them work in pairs to place the examples into correct category in the chart.


Part Two: The Komagata Maru Incident

  • Ask what types of discrimination this incident represents. (race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion) Point out that the passengers were British subjects and Canada was also part of the British Commonwealth.
  • Ask what laws were created to exclude Asian people, such as the passengers of the Komagata Maru, from entering Canada? (continuous journey law and $200 tax)
  • Ask why it is important for Canadians to remember this event. (learn from mistakes and make positive changes)


Part Three: Immigration Policy Timeline:

  • Explain that Canada’s immigration policies have changed over the years to become more fair.
  • Provide students with access to Canadian Immigration Acts and Legislation.
  • Have students determine the top ten most significant changes to Canadian immigration policy.
  • Have students these ten immigration acts and legislation on a timeline to shows how Canadian immigration policies have changed over the past 150 years. You may want to have student use a digital timeline creator such as this one from Read Write Think.


Lesson Four: Making Reparations for Past Wrongs

    • What do you think can be learned from the Komagata Maru Incident?
    • What are the benefits of the government apologizing for a past injustice?
    • What are the problems with an apology for something that happened a long time ago?
  • Have students work in small groups to complete the T-Chart: Are Apologies Enough? Encourage students consider the importance and limitations of government apologies for historic injustices.


  • How have your ideas changed about immigration in Canada changed?
  • What are the 3 most important things you have learned from your study of the Komagata Maru incident?

  • Find out how fast a steam ship such as the Komagata Maru could travel back in the early 1900’s.
  • Next, figure out the distance from Calcutta to Vancouver by sea. How long would it have taken the Komagata Maru to get to Vancouver? Show your work and explain how you figured it out.



Buchignani, Norman; Jacobsh, Doris R. 2020. “Sikhism in Canada.” The Canadian Encyclopedia.


A detailed summary of Sikh’s immigration and adaptation to Canada


Buchignani, Norman; Cooper, Celine. 2020.  “South Asian Canadians.” The Canadian Encyclopedia.



Canada. 2016. “Komagata Maru apology in the House of Common.” House of CommonsSpeeches.



Canada. 2016. “The Komagata Maru Incident of 1914.”  https://www.canada.ca/en/parks-canada/news/2016/08/the-komagata-maru-incident-of-1914.html


Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s. [n.d.] “List of Canadian Immigration Books for Kids and Teens.”  https://www.bookcentre.ca/files/ImmigrationBookList.pdf

Canadian Human Right Commission. [2021] “What are Human Rights?.”



Johnston, Hugh. “Komagata Maru.” 2016. The Canadian Encyclopedia.




McRae, Matthew. [n.d.] The Story of the Komagata Maru.” Canadian Museum for Human Rightshttps://humanrights.ca/story/the-story-of-the-komagata-maru


Palmer, Howard, et al. 2015. “Prejudice and Discrimination in Canada.” The Canadian Encyclopediahttps://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/prejudice-and-discrimination   


Raska, Jan. [2020?] “Who is Admissible?” Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21https://pier21.ca/blog/jan-raska/who-is-admissible


Royal B.C. Museum. [n.d.] “Lesson: The Punjabi Experience in British Columbia.” Learning Portal.



Sikhs.org. 2011. “Century of Struggle and Sucess. [sic] The Sikh Canadian Experience.” http://www.sikhs.org/100th/

This website celebrates the 100 years of Sikhs in Canada (1897-1997) and gives a detailed history of their experience.   


Van Dyk, Lindsay. [2020?] “Canadian Immigration Acts and Legislation.” Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.







Chattopadhyay, Suchetana. Voices of Komagata Maru: Imperial Surveillance and Workers from Punjab in Bengal. New Delhi: Tulika Books, 2018.


Hickman, Pamela. Righting Canada’s Wrongs: The Komagata Maru and Canada’s Anti-Indian Immigration Policies in the Twentieth Century. Toronto: James Lorimer & Company Ltd, 2014.


Kelkar, Supriya. “American as Paneer Pie.” New York : Aladdin, [2020]

-An Indian American girl navigates prejudice in her small town and learns the power of her own voice


Mawani, Renisa. Across Oceans of Law: The Komagata Maru and Jurisdiction in the Time of Empire. Durham: Duke University Press, 2018.


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Last Reviewed

February 01, 2023

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