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The postage stamp issued by Canada to commemorate the Komagata Maru Incident centennial.

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Canadian Govt To Offer Formal Apology In Parliament To Sikh-Canadians For Komagata Maru Incident





Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will offer an apology in the House of Commons on May 18, 2016 - almost 102 years after the Komagata Maru Incident, where the government of the day turned away 376 immigrants, mostly  Sikhs seeking a better life in Canada. [As British subjects, they had the right to move freely and settle anywhere within the British empire, of which both India and Canada were part as colonies.]

In 2008, then-prime minister Stephen Harper apologized informally to the Sikh community in Surrey, British Columbia, but many rejected his lame and half-hearted attempt, demanding he make a proper, formal apology in the House of Commons, which he refused.

The Sikh community will get its wish next month, Prime Minister Trudeau announced in Ottawa Monday, April 11, 2016.

"As a nation, we should never forget the prejudice suffered by the Sikh community at the hands of the Canadian government of the day. We should not and we will not," he said.

"That is why, next month, on May 18th, I will stand in the House of Commons and offer a full apology for the Komagata Maru Incident."

Trudeau called the laws that allowed the Canadian government to turn the Komagata Maru away discriminatory.

"The passengers of the Komagata Maru, like millions of immigrants to Canada since, were seeking refuge, and better lives for their families. With so much to contribute to their new home, they chose Canada and we failed them utterly," he said.


In 1910, an order-in-council was passed which stated immigrants coming to Canada must do so by continuous journey - a law that pointedly would not affect Europeans immigrants.

Gurdit Singh chartered the Japanese ship Komagata Maru and sold tickets to several hundred Sikh the Punjab.

The Komagata Maru sailed into Vancouver harbour with 376 people aboard on May 23, 1914.

The passengers argued a 1908 provision that required all "Asiatic" immigrants to have $200 did not apply to them because they were British subjects. At the time, India was still a colony.

The dominion government would not allow the passengers to disembark and the vessel sat in the harbour for two months.

That July, the government refused supplies to the ship, and ordered the ship to sail, but the passengers took over the ship and refused to leave.

On July 19, 1914, 125 Vancouver police officers and 35 special immigration agents attempted to board the vessel and were beaten back. Thirty were injured.

On July 23, under the guns of the naval cruiser HMCS Rainbow, the Komagata Maru was escorted out to sea and returned to India. [Upon landing in Budge Budge, Calcutta, approx 20 were shot dead by British Indian police in the latter‘s attempt to prevent the passengers from heading back to Punjab and spreading word of their mistreatment despite being British subjects.]

[Courtesy: CBC News. Edited for]
April 12, 2016

Conversation about this article

1: Gurjender Singh (Maryland, USA), April 12, 2016, 12:10 PM.

I would like to thank Sikh-Canadians unity for their success in getting their government to apologize in Parliament for the Komagata Maru Incident. Whereas, Sikhs in India could not achieve this for the 1984 Sikh genocide.

2: Pham (Elkton, Maryland, USA), April 12, 2016, 2:52 PM.

Thank you. And great press coverage too.

3: R Singh (Surrey, British Columbia, Canada), April 15, 2016, 1:17 PM.

Apologizing for a historical injustice acknowledges the event as being wrong. When can we except an apology for the mis-treatment of Japanese-Canadians during the Second World War, many whom are still alive?

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