Canada to apologise 102 years after Komagata Maru incident

12 Apr 2016 | Written by Achin Garg; Edited by Gaurav

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that he will "formally apologise" in the House of Commons over the Komagata Maru incident.

He was speaking at the Baisakhi celebration in Gurdwara Sahib Ottawa Sikh Society on 11th April.

The Japanese steamship Komagata Maru, carrying 376 immigrants, mostly Indians, was not allowed entry in Canada in May 1914 which forced it to return to India.

In context: The Komagata Maru incident

About What is Komagata Maru incident?

Komagata Maru was a ship which carried 376 Indian immigrants, mainly Sikhs, through Hong Kong, China, and Japan to Vancouver, Canada.

The ship had 340 Sikhs, 24 Muslims, and 12 Hindus, all of whom were British subjects.

In order to discourage immigration, Canadian government in 1908 had passed a law putting bizarre restrictions on immigrations such as people should make a continuous journey, etc.

Sep 1914Ship returns to India after 4 months

Voyages involving such long distances necessitated stop-overs.

However, the 1908 law was rooted in racist and ethnocentric views that Canada should remain a "White Man's Country" (ironically, Canada was already accepting immigrants from Europe).

The passengers were not allowed to disembark and the ship had to return to Budge-Budge port, Calcutta. On their return, the Britishers saw the passengers as dangerous political agitators.

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Britishers open fire on the passengers

British soldiers fired upon the passengers of the ship and 19 people died in the horrific incident at Calcutta. Some escaped but most were arrested and imprisoned or sent back to their villages and detained.

2008MP's apology motion passes in the Canadian Parliament

A motion of Ruby Dhalla, a Member of Parliament for Brampton—Springdale, was passed in the House of Commons that said that "the government should officially apologise" to the Indo-Canadian community and those impacted by the Komagata Maru incident.

The legislative assembly of British Columbia, Canada unanimously passed an apology resolution over the incident.

A $2.5 million grant was created to commemorate the incident.

Canadian PM offers apology

The former PM of Canada, Stephen Harper, issued an apology over the Komagata Maru incident at the Ghadri Babiyan Da Mela (festival). However, some Sikhs were unsatisfied and wanted the apology in the Parliament.

12 Apr 2016Canada to apologise 102 years after Komagata Maru incident

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12 Apr 2016Canadian PM to fulfill his election promise

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau said that the incident happened due to "discriminatory laws of the time" and "we should never forget the prejudice suffered by the Sikh community".

Notably, Mr. Trudeau, who has four Sikh ministers in his cabinet, had promised a formal apology during the election campaign.

Canadian Defense Minister, Harjit Sajjan, tweeted that he is "truly honoured" by the PM's commitment.

18 May 2016Justin Trudeau apologizes for Komagata Maru

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally apologized in the House of Commons for the Komagata Maru incident in 1914, which killed hundreds of Hindus and Sikhs.

Opposition Leader Rona Ambrose, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, BQ Leader Rheal Fortin and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May also apologized for the incident.

Accepting responsibility, Trudeau said, "for every regrettable consequence that followed, we, are, sorry."

22 May 2016Komagata Maru: MEA accepts Trudeau's apology

India's External Affairs Ministry welcomed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's formal apology on the 1914 Komagata Maru incident.

The MEA issued a statement saying, "We welcome and deeply appreciate the gesture of Prime Minister of Canada to deliver a formal apology for the Komagata Maru incident."

The Ministry added that the apology reflects Canada's commitment to the values of pluralism which India fully shares.​