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Delta student piece on Komagata Maru wins big in Passages Canada national contest

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                            

Delta student piece on Komagata Maru wins big in Passages Canada national contest

DELTA, BC, May 30, 2014 – A student at Delta Secondary School has been selected as the national winner of Passages Canada’s Write and Make Art! Challenge. The contest received over 400 submissions from students in Grades 1 to 12.

Emily Lieuwen, a Grade 12 student, won in the senior category for her written work, “Letters from Then and Now: Changing Multiculturalism” (see page 2 for excerpt). Emily’s piece compares Canadian immigration experiences from the turn of the century to present-day. Taking the 100th anniversary of the Komagata Maru incident as her starting point, she writes a letter home from the perspective of a passenger on the steamship’s ill-fated 1914 voyage from India and another from the perspective of a new immigrant from India in 2014. Emily is one of two national winners from British Columbia this year.

“Through this work, we see a new generation of Canadian artists and storytellers defining crucial questions of citizenship and identity,” said Anthony Wilson-Smith, President of Historica Canada. “The results are impressive not only in creative terms, but in broadening the discussion of how we as Canadians define ourselves.”

In its second year, the Passages Canada Write and Make Art! Challenge encouraged Grade 1 to 12 students across Canada to explore issues of immigration, identity and racism through writing and art. Work was juried by an esteemed panel from Passages Canada, The Canadian Encyclopedia and Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

A storytelling initiative of Historica Canada, Passages Canada volunteers share their personal accounts of cultural identity and heritage on-line in our multimedia Story Archive and in person with schools and community groups. Since 2002, over 1,000 speakers have created dialogue on Canada’s rich diversity with over 250,000 youth and adults. Passages Canada is generously supported by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and TD Bank Group.

Historica Canada is the largest charitable organization dedicated to Canadian history, identity and citizenship. Its mandate is to build active and informed citizens through a greater knowledge and appreciation of the history, heritage and stories of Canada.


For more information:

Calina Ellwand, Program Coordinator

t. 1.866.701.1867 ext 392



Fadia Otariste, Communications Officer

t. 1.866.701.1867 ext 259


Excerpt from Grade 12 student Emily Lieuwen’s winning entry in the senior writing category:

This was then:

July 23, 1914

Dear Mother,

            I write this with a heavy heart. It seems you will be seeing me soon enough and that there was no need for a tearful goodbye. For two months I have sat on this ship, the Komagata Maru, while men from a strange land, that I have yet to see for myself, decide my fate. Mother, you spoke so highly of this country. Its name, Canada, brought so many miraculous images to mind, most of all was the freedom it was supposed to bring not only me, but also the rest of our family. However, it appears this country is no different from any of the others when it comes to accepting those with differences, whether it be skin colour or religion. Hardly any news reaches us as we float in the middle of the harbor. Any news I do receive comes from the whispers I overhear between other passengers, but the truth is, no one knows what our fate will be. We are all in the dark, figuratively and often quite literally.


This is now:

March 23, 2014

Dear Grandmother,


As for me, school has been challenging, but not as horrible as I had expected. I was happy to see that I was not the only Indian boy in my class although the others seem more ‘whitewashed’ than I am. One of them has never even eaten a samosa before! Grandma, I know you worried about us fitting in in Canada and I would be lying if I said there was no difference between us and the other people in our neighborhood. However, the thing is, most people here seem very accepting of our differences. Mom doesn’t get stared at for wearing her sari to the grocery store even if she is the only one wearing one. A girl at school the other day was fascinated to learn about our religion as she’d never met a Buddhist before. It seems Canada is a place of acceptance. There are people from all over the world here and it seems like, no matter where you come from, you are accepted. Obviously it isn’t perfect, even I have had a few racist comments thrown at me on the playground, but overall I love it here. I hope one day you can come experience this land of opportunity for yourself.

With love,

            Your grandson