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B.C. government should think of making a museum in the name of Bhai Mewa Singh

museum Mewa Singh
Bhai Mewa Singh struck a blow against colonial oppression and paid for it with his life in 1915.

The delay in building a South Asian museum in B.C.—partly due to the lack of unanimity on the title—is frustrating.

Some want it to be called a Punjabi heritage museum, others want it to be focused on the wider South Asian community, while some are insisting on recognizing the predominantly Sikh identity within the diaspora.

This unnecessary controversy can be easily resolved if the B.C. government chooses to create such a space in the name of Bhai Mewa Singh. He kissed the gallows with courage and conviction and laid down his life while fighting against racism in this country.

Bhai Mewa Singh was a political activist who was executed on January 11, 1915 in New Westminster for assassinating an infamous immigration inspector, William Hopkinson. Hopkinson had instigated a group of stooges to target and intimidate those within the South Asian diaspora who had been campaigning against the British occupation of India and challenging racist policies of the Canadian government. Canada was a British dominion back then when these activists were organizing to free their home country from colonialism and to oppose discriminatory immigration laws.

Being a practising Sikh, Bhai Mewa Singh chanted prayers while being taken to the scaffold. He became the first Punjabi to be hanged on the Canadian soil. Today, the community reveres him as its first Canadian martyr and has been asking for his history to be presented accurately and fairly rather than having him portrayed as a criminal.

Museum could include separate space for Sikh martyr

New Westminster City council has already proclaimed his death anniversary as Bhai Mewa Singh Day, but no such initiative has been taken by the provincial government.

It is high time that the B.C. government consider making a fitting museum dedicated to the broader South Asian community and its struggle against racism, but only under his name.

Apart from that the museum should have a separate space for Bhai Mewa Singh’s story with pictures and documents related to his contribution to the struggle for a just and inclusive society.

Gurpreet Singh is a B.C. broadcaster and the author of Why Mewa Singh Killed William Hopkinson: Revisiting the Murder of a Canadian Immigration Inspector. Follow Pancouver on X @PancouverMedia and on Instagram @PancouverMedia.

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Gurpreet Singh

Gurpreet Singh

Gurpreet Singh is a B.C. author and cofounder of Radical Desi.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.