Indians promised Komagata apology in Canada’s parliament

September 14th, 2008 - 1:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Vancouver, Sep 14 (IANS) The Komagata Maru ship episode of 1914, where hundreds of Indian passengers were not allowed to enter Canada, is set to cast its shadow on the Canadian elections next month.The opposition Liberal Party, which never bothered to address the issue while in power for a decade, has now promised to issue an apology in parliament to Indo-Canadians if it is voted into power.

Three hundred and seventy-six Indians aboard the Komagata Maru ship were not allowed to disembark in Vancouver port for two months and then forcibly sent back to India 94 years ago by the then Canadian government.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper publicly apologised for the incident at a Punjabi mela in the city of Surrey near here last month. But the Indo-Canadian community insists that he should have apologised in the nation’s parliament.

Addressing a rally in Surrey Friday night, Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion tried to cash in on this resentment. He said if he becomes prime minister next month, he will issue an immediate apology in the House of Commons for the Komagata Maru incident.

Dion said the then Canadian government committed a grave mistake by turning away 376 people who were “seeking a new life in Canada”.

“Those who seek a new life in our country should be treated with dignity, respect and should not be sent in harm’s way. It is not the Canadian way,” he said.

Hitting out at the prime minister for issuing his apology at a park mela here last month, Dion said: “We should apologise as a country and apologise not in a park, or at a fair or in a press release but in the House of Commons.”

Later, speaking at another rally, he promised to change the newly enacted immigration law which gives sweeping powers to the immigration minister.

Under the immigration law, enacted ostensibly to clear the huge backlog of 900,000-plus applications, the minister can decide how many people are allowed into Canada each year.

Canada currently gets 250,000 immigrants each year.

Immigrant communities fear that under the new law, their families will not be able unite with them in Canada quickly as it will give preference to skilled workers.

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