Speech made by Jay Chauhan, on 4 November 2006, gathering of about 60 South Asian Lawyers at Howard Johnson Hotel on formation of the South Asian Lawyer’s Association.
South Asians have been in Canada since about 1896. The earliest settlers came in 1896 and settled in British Columbia area. The numbers grew very slowly. At that time Canada as a British Colony was more keen on settling British population rather than other groups in Canada. When the population of South Asians and Chinese grew there were serious concerns about their numbers becoming large and a one stop rule was created so that only the ships that could come in a single journey to Canada could allow its passengers to land and settle here.
In about 1914 Indians from India hired a Japanese vessel by the name of Komatagamaru and sailed from Calcutta and arrived in the harbor of Victoria in compliance with the one journey rule. There was considerable commotion in the BC and Federal parliaments and after the debate the Canadian Navy forced the tired and hungry passengers to return to India.
Landmark 1947- Voting Rights
The East Indians had no right of vote in Canada until about 1947. They could not become lawyers and could not have argued the case of Komatagamaru in court as lawyers. It was in 1967 that the doors were opened to non European migration by Pierre Elliot Trudeau, French Canadian prime minister of Canada at that time.
South Asian Lawyers Group
South Asian Lawyer’s Association was formed in about 1992. At that I was appointed Deputy Judge and it was felt in the South Asian Legal community that we should get together and move forward. Mr. Iqbal Dewji arranged with the support of Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce a gathering of about 60 lawyers at Osgoode Hall. The meeting was attended by then Treasurer of the Law Society, Mr. Alan Rock. Mr. Stien Lall who was a Deputy Minister in the Ontario Government addressed the meeting.
The momentum of SALA continued for about 4 years. A number of meetings were organized, including picnics and a Gala Dinner. This dinner was attended by again Rt. Hon. Alan Rock who by that time was Attorney General of Canada. Unfortunately, no elections or meetings have been called in the last 10 years, except that in about the year 2000 a brochure showing the names of some South Asian Lawyers was published.