Roundtable: Legacies of Komagata Maru: Canada’s Practices of Exclusion


February 27, 2014
5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
305 Founders Hall, York University

Legacies of Komagata Maru: Canada’s Practices of Exclusion

Moderated by Ali Kazmi, Associate Professor, York University

Panelists include:  Zainab Amadahy, Aaron Berhane, Davina Bhandar, Tings Chak, Evelyn Encalada, Harini Sivalingam, and Christopher Sorio.

This roundtable is being convened to commemorate 100 years of the denial of entry into Canada of 376 South Asian migrants on board the Komagata Maru, on the grounds that they threatened the existence of white Canada. That the colonial and racial logics that underpinned this historical moment are ongoing is seen in its marginalization from the collective memory of Canadian settler society, as well as in the processes of discrimination, detainment and deportations that characterize the contemporary immigration policy framework. This roundtable will reflect on the significance of the history of the Komagata Maru in order to raise questions about immigration, race, diaspora, indigeneity and methods of exclusion that continue to be deployed in incidents such as the treatment asylum seekers on the Ocean Lady, the MV Sun Sea and beyond. Further, these connections provide an entry point for thinking through the relations between bodies, borders, nationalism and settler colonialism.

About the panelists:

Aaron Berhane is a co-founder and editor-in-chief of the first independent newspaper in Eritrea. After his newspaper was shut down and the security agents  came to arrest him, he fled his country and finally granted political asylum in Canada.  Soon he founded a community newspaper  in 2004 and has been publishing his paper since then to help the Eritrean Canadian integrate in Canadian society. He is an award-winning journalist and editor-in-chief and publisher of the Eritrean Canadian newspaper Meftih (

Davina Bhandar is an Associate Professor of Canadian Studies at Trent University. She researches and teaches in the areas of immigration and citizenship policy, diasporic and transnational migrations, border securitization and critical race/settler studies of Canada. She is currently working on a book project titled Unsettling Migrations: Examining the Practice of Citizen Making, Emplacement and Belonging, which is a study in the transpacific migration of South Asians in the Pacific Northwest region of Canada.

Tings Chak is a migrant justice organizer with No One Is Illegal – Toronto. She is an artist-architect whose work examines the relationship between physical space and the production of borders, specifically exploring migrant detention centres in Canada.

Evelyn Encalada Grez is a founding member and transnational organizer for “Justicia for Migrant Workers” that has promoted the rights of people working under the most precarious of the Temporary Foreign Worker Programs in Canada for over a decade. She also contract faculty in Labour Studies at York University and teaches online for University of British Columbia. Her research with migrant farm workers has been published in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society and Citizenship Studies. Right now she is collaborating with Min Sook Lee to produce a new documentary about the lives of migrant women in Canada called “Migrant Dreams.” Evelyn’s holistic political praxis is fueled by her own experiences of displacement, forced migration and exclusion along with a deep sense of spirituality.

Harini Sivalingam
 obtained her LL.B. at Osgoode Hall Law School and was called to the Ontario Bar in 2006. Harini completed her LL.M. in International Comparative Law at McGill University in 2009 and is currently a PhD Student in the Socio-legal Studies program at York University. Her dissertation topic examines the discourses surrounding the arrival of asylum seekers by boats to Canada. Harini has a diverse set of research interests including; immigration and refugee law, international and domestic human rights, and national security law.

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