Canadian opposition leader backs Indians on Komagata Maru apology

August 6th, 2008 - 1:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Aug 6 (IANS) Jack Layton, leader of the Canadian opposition New Democratic Party, has urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper to issue an official apology in the House of Commons for the Komagata Maru incident of 1914. The prime minister apologised to the community Monday at a rally in Surrey near Vancouver.

But the Indo-Canadian community rejected it, saying they wanted the apology to be tendered in the nation’s parliament as promised by the government.

Supporting the stand taken by the community, Layton said Tuesday: “We join with the South Asian communities across Canada in urging the prime minister to issue a complete and sincere apology regarding the Komagata Maru incident of 1914.”

His colleague and party MP Penny Priddy added: “When we see this government apologise for wrongdoings against the Chinese and Aboriginals, we don’t understand why are they discriminating and neglecting the South Asian community.

“It is not fair and we demand this mistake not be overlooked.”

The NDP has recently created a Punjabi advisory committee to take up the Komagata Maru issue, petitioning the government for an immediate apology.

Punjabi advisory committee chairperson Jagtar Shergill said: “The prime minister’s obvious avoidance of an apology makes it clear that the government is taking after the previous Liberal party government.

“When the Liberals were in power for 13 years, they ignored this issue and it seems like the Conservatives are just following their lead.

“What a shame - if the Liberals had taken care of this, we wouldn’t be demanding action today from another government intent on ignoring a community.”

Komagata Maru was a Japanese ship which was hired by a Malaysia-based wealthy Sikh Gurdit Singh to bring 376 Indians from Hong Kong to Canada (then a British dominion like India) in 1914 to challenge its racist immigration policies.

But the ship, which reached Vancouver in May, was not allowed to anchor and forcibly sent back to India two months later. Twenty of the passengers were shot dead by the police when they reached Calcutta, as it was then called.

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