Canada to apology to Indians for Komagata Maru tragedy

May 12th, 2008 - 10:18 am ICT by admin  

By Gurmukh Singh
Vancouver, May 12 (IANS) Finally, Canada will formally apologise to the Indians here for the Komagata Maru tragedy of 1914 and acknowledge the hurt caused to the community. The Komagata Maru ship brought 376 Indians to Canada in 1914 in violation of the racist immigration laws of that time. But it was into allowed to anchor here and forcibly sent back to India after two months. On ts return to India, many passengers were shot dead by British India police in Calcutta.

Making this commitment to the Indo-Canadian community at a gathering in Surrey near here Saturday, Jason Kenney, secretary of state for multiculturalism and Canadian identity, said the government would soon tender a formal apology on the issue in the nation’s parliament.

The government has already apologized to Chinese Canadians for the so-called head tax that was imposed on them (from 1890 to 1925) to deter their immigration to Canada. Kenney said the federal government would also make funds available to the Indian community for building a Komagata memorial.

He also hinted that his government will work with provincial (state) governments to have a Komagata chapter in school textbooks.

“It is the biggest step for the Indian community in Canada. I never expected this to happen when I raised this issue first in 1997 and later introduced a petition in parliament in 2002,” said former MP Gurmant Grewal who was present at the meeting with his wife and sitting MP Neena Grewal.

The current Tory government set in motion the apology process soon after taking over in 2006.

Speaking at a local Ghadar Mela in August 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised to study the Komagata issue and recognize “the sad moment in the history” of the Indo-Canadians.

“Like any country, our country is not perfect. We haven’t always lived up to our own high ideals. I (also) want you to know that the government of Canada acknowledges the Komagata Maru incident and we will soon undertake consultations with the Indo-Canadian community on how best to recognize this sad moment in our history,” the prime minister had said.

Later, Jim Abbott, parliament secretary to the Canadian heritage minister, was appointed to head a committee which discussed the issue with the Indo-Canadian community and submitted a report to the government.

While acknowledging the Komagata tragedy, the government is also likely to formally apologise to Italian Canadians (for their internship during the World War) and Jewish Canadians (for turning them back).

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