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The Komagata Maru monument in downtown Vancouver on May 18, 2021.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

The defacing of a public memorial in Vancouver to those who were aboard a ship that was forced to return to India more than a century ago is being treated by police as a possible hate crime.

Police say they began an investigation Sunday after seeing reports that white paint had been splattered on the Komagata Maru memorial on the city’s seawall in the Coal Harbour neighbourhood.

The Komagata Maru, which arrived in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet on May 23, 1914, carrying 376 people, was denied entry to Canada even though those on board were British subjects.

Police say the graffiti, which included multiple white handprints, covered the names of people who had been aboard the vessel.

Premier John Horgan says in a social-media post that he is “deeply upset and angry” by the vandalism.

Police say front-line officers and specially trained investigators are gathering evidence.

“Police are treating the troubling incident as a possible hate crime,” the department says in a news release on Monday.

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