Canada to offer formal apology for Komagata Maru tragedy

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Reaching out to the Indian Sikh community, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to make a full apology in the House of Commons for the Komagata Maru incident, where the Canadian government of the day had turned away more than 300 Indians seeking a better life in Canada. Komagata Maru, a Japanese steamship, carrying 376 immigrants, mostly Sikhs, from India was denied entry by the Canadian government in May 1914 and was forced to return to India. Two months later, the ship arrived in Calcutta where British soldiers fired upon the disembarking passengers that killed 19 persons. Many passengers were detained by the British soldiers and given prison sentence. The ship was escorted out of Canadian waters by gunships, one of them popularly known as HMCS Rainbow.

“The passengers of the Komagata Maru like millions of immigrants to Canada since were seeking refuge and better lives for their families. With so much to contribute to their new home, they chose Canada and we failed them utterly. As a nation, we should never forget the prejudice suffered by the Sikh community at the hands of the Canadian government of the day. We should not and we will not,” Mr Trudeau said on April 11. He was addressing an event to celebrate Baisakhi in Ottawa. “That is why next month, on May 18, I will stand in the House of Commons and offer a full apology for the Komagata Maru incident,” he added.

Canada is home to over 1.2 million Persons of Indian Origin (PIO). Elaborating on the decision to apologise, Mr Trudeau said: “An apology made in the House of Commons will not erase the pain and suffering of those who lived through that shameful experience, but an apology is not only the appropriate action to take, it’s the right action to take and the House is the appropriate place for it to happen.”

Mr Trudeau’s party, which won decisively in 2015 elections, has four Indian origin cabinet ministers including a Sikh as the Defence Minister. There are 19 people of Indian-origin who were elected as Members of Parliament in Canada in the 2015 elections.

 


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