MP Sandhu And NDP Continue Pushing For Komagata Maru Apology

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SURREY – May 23rd, 2013, marks the 99th anniversary of the arrival of the SS. Komagata Maru into Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet, and Surrey North MP Jasbir Sandhu wants to ensure the tragedy is acknowledged appropriately.

With 376 passengers onboard, the Komagata Maru arrived in Canada only to be met with rejection. At the time, legislation required that a ship arriving in Canada sail directly from its origin.  As no vessel could sail from Asia without stopping, it was clear that the policy was purposely designed by the Government of Canada to stop immigrants of Asian background.

In Vancouver, the passengers were not allowed to disembark. Denied food and water, they stayed onboard for 2 months under dehumanizing conditions. On July 23rd, 1914, passengers were forced to return to India, where they were met with violence and imprisonment. Nineteen of these passengers were killed.

In 2008, Prime Minister Harper was invited to Bear Creek Park in Surrey, to speak at the annual Mela Gadri Babian Da event. He was expected to apologize for the Komagata Maru incident on behalf of the government, witnessed by thousands of celebration attendees. However, the speech did not deliver the closure that the Indo-Canadian community had expected. Furthermore, it was not delivered in the House of Commons, where it would be considered an official apology.

Sandhu is particularly concerned about the government’s lack of recognition of the Komagata Maru incident: “I was at Bear Creek Park the day that Prime Minister Harper issued his statement. I felt deceived and insulted by the lack of respect he awarded the memory of the Komagata Maru, the ancestors of its passengers, and the Indo-Canadian community.”

Last year the Conservative government voted down a motion asking for an official apology to be delivered by Prime Minister Harper in the House of Commons. As the Member of Parliament who brought the motion forward, Sandhu is disappointed in the Conservative government’s continued rejection of justice. “This government must recognize this horrific denial of human rights and the blatant racism that informed the policies of its predecessors”, says Sandhu. “Along with the NDP, I will continue to push for closure for the South Asian community. This is the only way that healing and reconciliation can truly begin.”

A petition of support for an official apology for the Komagata Maru incident by the Canadian Government is available at www.jasbirsandhu.ca.