Trudeau to apologize for Komagata Maru incident

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Sikh immigrants on board the Komagata Maru in English Bay in 1914. (Library and Archives Canada / PA-034014)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will say sorry for Vancouver’s Komagata Maru incident in a formal apology in the House of Commons on May 18, it has been announced.

“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,” said Trudeau in a release Monday.

This year marks the 102nd anniversary of the arrival of the Japanese ship Komagata Maru, which brought hundreds of Indian immigrants – all British subjects and mostly Sikhs – into Burrard Inlet in 1914.

Most of the immigrants were not allowed to come ashore due to the discriminatory laws of the time and after two months of hardship, court cases, and protests, the ship was forced to turn around.

“An apology made in the House of Commons will not erase the pain and suffering of those who lived through that shameful experience,” said Trudeau.

“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.”

Trudeau made the announcement at Vaisakhi on the Hill, at the end of a three-day religious ceremony in which Sikh scriptures are read continuously to commemorate Vaisakhi, the harvest festival of the Punjab region.

Various plaques now commemorate the Komagata Maru incident around Vancouver.

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Jenni Sheppard Staff writer at Vancity Buzz. Happy Vancouverite. Traveller, snowboarder, film fan, feminist, geek, curler.
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