Canadian PM apologises for Komagata Maru, Indo-Canadians reject it

August 4th, 2008 - 1:09 pm ICT by IANS  

By Gurmukh Singh
Vancouver, Aug 4 (IANS) The Indo-Canadian community has refused to accept an apology by Prime Minister Stephen Harper for the 1914 Komagata Maru ship incident in which hundreds of Indian passengers were not allowed to enter Canada. The Komagata Maru was a Japanese ship hired by Malaysia-based wealthy Sikh Gurdit Singh to bring 376 Indians from Hong Kong to Canada in 1914 to challenge its racist laws.

The Indians were not allowed to disembark in Vancouver and forcibly sent back to India where many were shot on arrival in Calcutta, as it was then called.

Tendering the apology at the annual Mela Gadari Babian Da at the Bear Creek Park in Surrey city near here Sunday, Harper said Canada was sorry for the mistreatment of the passengers in 1914 and apologises for it.

Since the government had promised to apologise only in the nation’s parliament, mela organisers immediately rejected it.

“We wanted the House of Commons to apologise, not the PM at this rally. We reject this apology,” shouted Mela organiser Sahib Singh Thind even as security personnel whisked the prime minister away.

Thind said: “The government has betrayed us, as only yesterday it had promised us that the PM will announce only a date here for the apology in parliament later.

“Today, they have treated us like they did the Komagata passengers in 1914. It was the same racist Conservative government then as now. Racism is alive in Canada.”

He said the Indo-Canadian community would chalk out its plan to fight for an apology in the nation’s parliament.

However, Jason Kenney, secretary for multiculturalism and Canadian identity, ruled this out, saying: “The apology has been given and it won’t be repeated.”

An indignant Indo-Canadian MLA Jagrup Brar, who was instrumental in getting the provincial British Columbia assembly to apologise for the Komagata Maru just last month, asked: “If our provincial assembly can apologise, why can’t the nation’s parliament?

“It was the House of Commons which had passed a unanimous resolution proposing an apology. The apology should have been entered into the House records. I wonder who is advising this PM.”

But Deepak Obhrai, Canadian parliamentary secretary (minister of state) for foreign affairs, justified the apology, saying: “It does not matter where the apology is tendered. Some people are bound to make noises. The government has acknowledged that Indo-Canadians were discriminated against in the past.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in World |