Earlier today, the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility, and the Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence and Member of Parliament for Vancouver South, announced the removal of Harry Stevens’ name from a federal public building in Vancouver, British Columbia.
BC Regional Council member Kelly Sidhu works in the building and, alongside her co-workers, has been calling on the government to do this for several years. She sent us her thoughts on today’s announcement.
The 1914 Komagata Maru incident, in which the Government of Canada denied entry to hundreds of Sikh, Muslim and Hindu passengers resulted in detrimental and fatal outcome for many people that had arrived by ship for a better life in Canada.
Henry Herbert Stevens was the Conservative Party MP for Vancouver Centre at the time and he was an out-spoken opponent of Asian immigration. Stevens was actively involved in stopping the ship from coming to shore. Most infamously, in 1914 Stevens is quoted as saying, “we cannot hope to preserve the national type if we allow Asiatics to enter Canada in any numbers”.
For the last 53 years, the Service Canada office at Quebec Street and East 10th has had a plaque in the building lobby dedicated to him.
“One of Canada’s outstanding public servants, the honourable Henry Herbert Stevens was a Member of Parliament for thirty years and served with distinction in various cabinet portfolios.”
Workers that enter the building saw this plaque in the lobby every day. Workers like myself, are reminded of this tragic event, some of us whom are descendants or direct immigrants from the very countries that Stevens campaigned against. Understandably, this is a painful reminder for many. Many of us are pleased to see it has been removed and the building de-named today.
We appreciate the building will be un-named and that a mural reflecting reconciliation and the diversity of the Mount Pleasant neighborhood and today’s Canada will be reflected on the walls of this building that was until this morning, known only as a federal government building that honoured Henry Herbert Stevens.
Kelly Sidhu, PSAC BC Regional Council.