May 18th, 2016 - 2:51pm
OTTAWA – Brian Masse MP Windsor West was pleased to be in the House of Commons chamber today to witness the formal apology in Parliament regarding the Komagata Maru. In 2007, Jack Layton was the first party leader to call for an official apology from the Government of Canada in the House of Commons, while in 2008, then Prime Minister Harper had apologized to the Sikh Community in Surrey, B.C., but many demanded a formal apology in the House of Commons.
Today in commemoration of the 102nd anniversary of the Komagata Maru incident the Prime Minister gave an apology to the descendants of those on the ship and to the Sikh community in general during Ministerial Statements under Routine Proceedings.
In May 1914, a crowded steamship from Hong Kong carrying 376 passengers, most being immigrants from Punjab, British India, arrived in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet on the west coast of the Dominion of Canada. The passengers, all British subjects, were challenging the Continuous Passage regulation, which stated that immigrants must “come from the country of their birth, or citizenship, by a continuous journey and on through tickets purchased before leaving the country of their birth, or citizenship. The regulation had been brought into force in 1908 in an effort to curb Indian immigration to Canada. As a result, the Komagata Maru was denied docking by the authorities and only twenty returning residents, and the ship’s doctor and his family were eventually granted admission to Canada. Following a two month stalemate, the ship was escorted out of the harbour by the Canadian military on July 23, 1914 and forced to sail back to Budge-Budge, India where nineteen of the passengers were killed by gunfire upon disembarking and many others imprisoned.
My colleague NDP Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship critic, Jenny Kwan made the following statement on the announcement of a formal Komagata Maru apology. “For the South Asian community, and all Canadians, this apology will begin the process of healing and reconciliation. The Komagata Maru will never be forgotten – instead it will be used as impetus to pursue a more just society and to create awareness so this kind of tragedy is never repeated.”
“As a parliamentarian, I am proud to have our Canada move beyond politics and recognize the discriminatory practice initiated over a century ago to formally apologize and bring closure to the decedents of whom these atrocities of abhorrent racism occurred,” said Masse.