Brown Canada Showcase
Sharing Our Stories: Creating New Legacies

Wednesday June 27th, 2012
5:30–9:00 p.m
Grace Church
41 Britain Street, Toronto (east of Queen station) 
This is a free, wheelchair accessible event & children are welcome.
Dinner served from 5:30-6:30 pm 
Program starts at 6:30 pm, sharp. 

This is a free event, but space is limited; please RSVP before June 25th at or by contacting or 416 932 1359  x14.

CASSA’s Brown Canada team proudly invites you to our project’s Showcase, an Informative and entertaining event featuring:

· The premiere of the original play “Oh Canada, Oh Komagata Maru!”
· A screening of the Brown Canada DVD
· The “Our Stories, Our Histories” South Asian history exhibit
· An interactive discussion about Racialized & Indigenous histories
· A free resource booklet on South Asian histories in Canada

The Brown Canada Theatre Project will be presenting "Oh Canada, Oh Komagata Maru!" a series of vignettes written and directed by Alia Somani. "Oh Canada, Oh Komagata Maru!" is about one of the least known yet most significant episodes in the history of Canada. What is called the Komagata Maru incident took place in 1914, when a group of 376 Punjabi migrants aboard a Japanese ship – the Komagata Maru – was turned away from Canada’s western seaboard and refused entry into the country. The Komagata Maru incident may have occurred almost 100 years ago, but it has not been forgotten. Instead it continues to haunt us, to reverberate in our nation’s consciousness. In fact, in 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood up in Bear Creek Park and declared that on behalf of Canada, he was sorry for the events of 1914. "Oh Canada, Oh Komagata Maru!" explores, among other things, this apology; it considers how much of our past is remembered and how much still remains buried; and most importantly, it asks us to relive the experiences of those who traveled to Canada in 1914 in search of a better life, and a better future.

Brown Canada is a community-led history project that seeks to document, create and share South Asian histories in Canada initiated byCouncil of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA), a social justice umbrella organization working with Ontario’s diverse South Asian communities. We acknowledge the financial support of the Community Historical Recognition Program of Citizenship and Immigration Canada in the initial phase of this project.



Biography of Panelists for the Brown Canada Showcase Event on June 27th, 2012

Philip CoteMoose Deer Point First Nation

First Nations Affiliation: Shawnee, Lakota, Potawatomi and Anishnaabe


My great- grandfather is the great-grandson of Tecumseh, and in my work I often explore the importance of the Shawnee leaders’ life and spirit.

I am a graduate of The Ontario College of Art and Design and at the forefront of a group of artists who are exploring new ways to imbue sculpture and painting with traditional spiritual perspectives. My work is available at a number of galleries across Canada and the United States. In 1994 I was in a two-person exhibition with Norval Morriseau at the Maslek Gallery in Sante Fe, New Mexico. In 2002, I was commissioned to create a 1000 square foot mural Kiinwin Dabaadjmowin (Our Story) Mural for the Mississauga’s of New Credit First Nation. In 2004 festival as part of the Planet Indigenous I was an artist in residence at the McMichael Art Gallery and in 2005 I designed and created a large scale mural Niinwin Dabaadjmowin – (We Are Talking) a 20-panel 80-foot mural depicting the rich history of the Anishnaabe people with the First Nations street level youth and community members.

Frequently over the years, I have asked myself as a First Nations Artist “Who am I creating my work for?” Growing up in the city of Toronto in the 60s and 70s, I found no support or positive images of First Nations culture in the school system or the media. In this post-colonial era, I believe the importance as a First Nations artist is to create an awareness and understanding of the vital and significant inheritance we have as First Peoples. Our heritage spans thousands of years. It’s important to understand the contact is a short part of our history. This contact legacy which include many ugly aspects: genocide, loss of language, forced relocation, residential schools, racism, and alcoholism to name a few that continue to impact our communities socially and otherwise.

I make art in order to transform these issues around contact and loss of our identity through telling of counter narratives and to repatriate our true identity. I continue this effort by continuing my education and am currently in my second year of graduate studies Interdisciplinary Art Media and Design program at OCAD University.


Avvy Go is the Clinic Director of Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic.  She received her LL.B. from the University of Toronto, and LL.M. from Osgoode Hall Law School. Since her call to the Bar in 1991, she has worked exclusively in the legal clinic system.

Avvy is a part time adjudicator of the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board and the Health Services Appeal and Review Board.

For many years, Avvy was involved in the Redress for Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act.  The clinic also set up, a website about Canada’s past racist polices towards Chinese Canadians.

For her work at the legal clinic, Avvy received the 2012 Lawyer of Distinction Award from the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers, the 2008 City of Toronto’s William P. Hubbard Award for Race Relations and the 2002 President's Award of the Women's Law Association of Ontario.  
Apart from her legal practice, Avvy spends much time doing community work.  Among other things, she co-founded the Colour of Poverty Campaign, was the past president of the Chinese Canadian National Council (Toronto Chapter) and former vice-president of the Court Challenges Program of Canada.

 Currently, Avvy sits on the Advisory Council of the Canadian Human Rights Museum and the Community Council of the Law Commission of Ontario.


Alia Rehana Somani has a BA from McGill University, a Master’s degree from York University, and a PhD in English from the University of Western Ontario. Her doctoral dissertation, Broken Passages and Broken Promises: Reconstructing the Komagata Maru and Air India Cases, explores the 1914 Komagata Maru incident and the 1985 Air India bombing, two events that she argues have until rather recently been forgotten from Canada’s national consciousness. Alia has also conducted research on and written about Muslim women and Internet dating.  In an encyclopedia entry she wrote for the Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Cultures, she considers the possibility that new media technologies such as the Internet can challenge Islamic orthodoxy and open up new opportunities for Muslim women looking for romantic partners.  While Alia enjoys academic research and writing, she sometimes worries that it seems too cut off from reality.  As such, she enjoyed doing journalistic work in India for a period of time where she wrote about the 2002 Gujarat riots and the communal conflict in contemporary North India.  The paper that emerged from this research was titled “The Reality Was Different” and was published in Mainstream.

Alia is the recipient of numerous honors and awards.  In 2008, for example, Alia was awarded a Shastri Indo-Canadian fellowship to conduct archival research in India at the National Archives and the Nehru Memorial Library and Museum in New Delhi. As a Shastri fellow, she had the opportunity to live in India, and there she became fascinated, among other things, by the workings of the caste system, and the way it continues to affect the lives of contemporary Indians. Alia’s most recent project is thus based partly on her research in India: she is comparing two communities that are oppressed in their societies: the Dalit or untouchable community in India and the Aboriginal or First Nations community in Canada. Alia has presented her work at both national and international conferences including the American Comparative Literature Association at Harvard University, and the TransCanada Conference in Sackville, New Brunswick. Her work has been featured in newspapers such as India Abroad and on websites such as Simon Fraser University’s “The Komagata Maru Incident Project.” Oh Canada, Oh Komagata Maru! is her first play, and she is thrilled to be working with talented young actors in Toronto to bring the story of the Komagata Maru incident to the Canadian stage.  As a second generation South Asian Canadian, Alia’s interest in the 1914 incident is very personal: she wants the Canadian nation to be held accountable for its broken promises, and to remember rather than forget events like the Komagata Maru incident, events that symbolize the exclusion of South Asians from the nation.



Sharing our Stories Tour Across Ontario

Over a period of two months, Brown Canada will be embarking on an eight-city tour in Ontario of our youth-led creative expressions (poetry, spoken word, plays, skits) dedicated to exploring histories of the Komagata Maru as well as our own personal histories. Following these creative expressions, we will be facilitating a community dialogue with our audience to have a critical discussion about our histories, and the implications of omitting our history. These are important spaces where South Asians, among others, can share and connect their experiences with other people, and have an opportunity to voice their reflections of identity and history here in Canada. We hope it will be an engaging and educational experience for all our participants.

Brampton poster  Hamilton poster  Kitchener Waterloo poster

Mississauga poster  Ottawa poster  Pickering poster  Toronto poster  Windsor poster



Legacies of the Komagata Maru: An Evening of Poetry of Resistance, Spoken Word & Performances - May 9, 2012

Click here to download flyer


Creative workshop series participants & performers.

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