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Surrey ‘Liberation Force’ group pushes B.C. gov’t to build South Asian Canadian Museum

Tuesday meeting planned as ‘rallying cry for community solidarity’
Passengers on the SS Komagata Maru in June 1914. The ship’s controversial journey to Vancouver a century ago would certainly be part of any South Asian Canadian Museum built in B.C. (Photo: Vancouver Public Library)

This story has been updated

In Surrey on Tuesday evening (April 2), a group pushing for the creation of a South Asian Canadian Museum in B.C. will host a meeting described as “not just a call for action but a rallying cry for community solidarity and empowerment.”

Tuesday morning, the B.C. government launched expanded public engagement focused on the project, with an updated website and online survey, on

The lobby group, called Museum Liberation Force, wants to know why the B.C. government is taking so long to lay the groundwork for a museum first announced two years ago.

“There have been promises to begin a community engagement process, with little movement,” the group says in a news release. “What actions were undertaken by the Province were widely panned by the Punjabi and wider South Asian community as being ill-conceived and insincere.”

Tuesday’s “Where is Our Museum?” event starts at 6 p.m. at Surrey City Hall, with registration done on The aim of the three-hour meeting is to “scrutinize the Ministry’s initiatives and advocate for authentic representation and action in community matters,” the news release continues.

“Doubting the Ministry’s genuine interest in heeding the community’s voice, we are hosting (the meeting) to foster transparent dialogue, directly engage with our own community’s concerns, and ‘liberate’ our narratives from the compromise and distortions that have occurred thus far.”

• RELATED: Surrey man educates people about 1914 tragedy of Komagata Maru ship.

Poster for April 2 meeting in Surrey.

Last October, a phase of public engagement was launched for planning of B.C.’s South Asian Canadian museum, which aims to “highlight the history, culture and contributions to B.C. from Canadians of diverse South Asian heritages.” A 13-member ministerial advisory committee was announced to “inform the development of the engagement plan, share opportunities within their communities and support community-based conversations,” according to a news release at the time.

The committee members are Am Johal, Balbir Gurm, Haiqa Cheema, Harjit Dhillon, Haroon Khan, Harpo Mander, Jeevan Sangha, Jinder Oujla-Chalmers, Karimah Es Sabar, Parminder Virk, Renisa Mawani, Sahil Mroke and Upkar Tatlay.

The engagement phase runs until June 2024, according to the website

No construction timeline is given for the museum, plans for which date back to the provincial election of October 2020. That month, the BC NDP promised to build a museum devoted to B.C.’s South Asian history in Surrey.

The B.C. government has provided $500,000 to the BC Museums Association to help communities organize “inclusive and comfortable discussions and solicit robust input.” Grants of up to $5,000 are for operational costs of the engagement activities, “ensuring diverse voices are heard and represented.” The grant application process starts April 8, 2024, and ends in June.

“The new museum/cultural centre,” the B.C. government promises, “will build on the Punjabi Canadian Legacy Project and the South Asian Canadian Legacy Project, which showcased the past and present contributions of South Asians in B.C. with more than $1.2 million in government support.”

Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news stories for the Surrey Now-Leader, where I've worked for more than half of my 30-plus years in the newspaper business.
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