Hussein Rahim, Balwant Singh, Harnam Kaur, H.H. Stevens – use this character guide to follow along with The Nameless Collective Podcast narrative.
The Cast of Characters
White Canada Forever (aka White Man’s Country): is an ideology; a vision that British Columbia, and Canada should be white. It’s about racism and all the different ways policy makers of the time tried to halt the migration of people of colour. (we referenced Peter Ward here).
William Hopkinson: Anglo-Indian, married in India, wife passed away and then moved to Canada. Didn’t tell people he was half Indian. Claimed he was born in Yorkshire. Immigration office, translator, and pain in the neck. Recorded and reported on the happenings within the South Asian community to the Canadian government.
H.H. Stevens: A racist politician who kept a superlative collection of memos, late night telegrams, speeches, and newspaper reports. Unfortunately, it all helped to show how much of a bigot he was. MP for Vancouver while the Komagata Maru was in harbour. Felt ‘Hindoos’ would ruin Canada and steal all the jobs. Made Vancouver great again. And by all accounts, was a loving grandfather.
Sir Wilfrid Laurier: Canada’s 7th Prime Minister, and one of the masterminds behind the “continuous Journey” regulation. Actively debated in favour of Canada being a white country. Some consider him one of the most progressive Prime Ministers in Canadian history, we beg to differ.
Mackenzie King: Canada’s 10th Prime Minister, and friends with Laurier. Was Deputy Minister of Labour in 1907 during the race riots. By 1908, he was the Canadian government’s ‘specialist’ on immigration-related issues. Penned sections of the “continuous journey.” Interesting Fact: Held seance with his dead mom.
Frank Oliver: Racist of the Year(s). Minister of the Interior from 1905 – 1911. Drafted a law to forbid the migration of black people to Canada. Described as “staunchly British.” Even Wikipedia highlights his racist acts: he was proud that his immigration policies were stricter than any policy that came before his.
Professor Teja Singh: A “Demi-God” among brown people. World renowned activist and Sikh preacher. Instrumental in the development of Khalsa Diwan Society. Represented South Asian community in legal battles including the British Honduras scheme.
Fraser Rumour Mill: Where we fill in the gaps and the silences where we don’t know what happened, and where we imagine what could have been.
J.B. Harkin: Journalist, followed by secretary to Frank Oliver in the Department of the Interior. Accompanied Bhag Singh and Balwant Singh to British Honduras (current day Belize) when the Canadian government came up with a scheme to ship all South Asians out. Later in life he preserved many of Canada’s most iconic parks as the Commissioner of National Parks.
Harnam Kaur: A powerhouse. Wife of Bhai Bhag Singh. One of the first Punjabi women to come to Canada. Was detained not once, but twice. Leader in the community, along with Kartar Kaur. Met with tragedy every step of the way. Died shortly after giving birth to her second child. Symbolic of the female experience, struggle, and agency.
Jor Mela: Direct translation is “get-together” or festival. Festival celebrating Sikhi and community. One of the first Jor Melas was a three-day celebration held in Paldi on Vancouver Island in the 1920s.
Husain Rahim (aka Chagan Verma): Lived in Japan. Was on the 2nd Avenue Gurdwara Council. Founder of a local South Asian newspaper called the Hindustanee. Member of the Shore Committee. Arrested for trying to vote in the BC Provincial elections in 1912. Ghadarite.
Second Avenue Gurdwara: The heart and soul of the community. Religious, political, social centre for all South Asians regardless of religion for decades. Today it’s an apartment complex, the site of a very nice plaque, and the starting point for many informative walking tours.
Mayor Truman Smith Baxter: Once upon a time, the Mayors of Vancouver use to own cars. This guy had one of the first. Mayor during the Komagata Maru episode
Arjan Singh Chand: “The Collector.” Because of Arjan Singh Chand’s detailed note taking, newspaper article scrapbooks, diaries, records, and photos we have a people’s history of South Asians in Canada.
Guru Nanak Mining and Trust Company: Organization founded by Professor Teja Singh, Bhag Singh, and other leaders to protect the interests and nurture the development of the South Asian community in Vancouver.
Bela Singh: AKA The Original Beeba Boy. AKA The Best Dressed Sikh in Vancouver. AKA Vudda Kutha. Imperial loyalist and top spy for the Immigration Department of Canada. Inspector Hopkinson’s right-hand man within the South Asian community.
Mewa Singh: Yes, that Mewa Singh – “Bhai Mewa Singh Library,” “Bhai Mewa Singh Langar Hall,” “Mewa Singh Centennial Commemoration,” “Shaheed Mewa Singh Memorial Tournament” – the list goes on. Hanged in New Westminster in January 1915 for shooting Inspector Hopkinson.
Balwant Singh: “Inimitable Revolutionary.” First Granthi (Priest) of Khalsa Diwan Society Vancouver. Fiery orator. One of the main targets of Canadian and British Law Enforcement Officials. Hanged by British Indian government in the Lahore Conspiracy Cases in 1917.
Bhag Singh: The Honorably Discharged. British Indian Officer-turned-fierce revolutionary. President of Khalsa Diwan Society Vancouver. Member of the Komagata Maru Shore Committee. Lead a campaign for ex-British servicemen to break ties with the British colonizers. Slain in the 2nd Avenue Gurdwara by Bela Singh.
Yucho Chow: A prolific photographer who captured the visual history of immigrant life in Vancouver for close to half a century. Although he mostly focused on the Chinese community, he was also the go to photographer for the South Asian community, recording everything from religious gatherings and funeral processions to passport photos and celebrations.
Annie Wright: “The Gori.” First woman to be married in the 2nd Avenue Gurdwara to Munsha Singh. Became an initiated Sikh along with her daughter and received the name “Labh Kaur.” Raised Bhag Singh and Harnam Kaur’s orphaned daughter for some years.
Gurdit Singh Bilga: Community icon for over 50 years. Part of the Komagata Maru Shore Committee and served as a representative and leader for the South Asian community until he passed away in the 1960s. Oh, and he may have beaten up Baboo Singh with a stick on Hastings Street, but that’s a story for another time…