Behind the Komagata Maru’s fight to open Canada’s border and the Question of an Apology

Fascinating account of the legal battles and the lawyer, J. Edward Bird, regarding the passengers of the Komagata Maru. Well worth reading:

The government’s strategy became clear the very day the Komagata Maru arrived in Vancouver. Health screening, a process normally completed within an hour, followed by immigration board interviews of all passengers, dragged on for days. The ship became a prison – no one was allowed off or on; food and water began to run low. The passengers’ lawyer, J. Edward Bird, was denied the right of access to his clients for weeks.

“I can only surmise that the instructions from the department at Ottawa to the immigration authorities here was to delay matters and delay matters and procrastinate and delay until such time as these people were starved back to their original port from whence they came,” he told a meeting hall packed with both South Asians and whites on June 21. “They talk about socialists and anarchists. There are no set of anarchists in Canada like the immigration officials who defy all law and order.”

Behind the Komagata Maru’s fight to open Canada’s border – The Globe and Mail

Interesting that Leader of the Opposition Tom Mulcair has called for a formal apology in Parliament.

I witnessed PM Harper’s “drive-by” apology in 2008 at the Surrey community picnic and it was not pretty. I quickly came to the conclusion that if governments wished to apologize (without legal liability for events which occurred in the past), the only acceptable way to do so was in Parliament, as was the case for Indian Residential Schools, the Chinese Head Tax, and Japanese WW2 Internment:

As we celebrate Asian Heritage Month this May, we cannot ignore the mistakes of our past — we must remember the history of the Komagata Maru Tragedy.

We must condemn these acts, respectfully, officially, and with sincerity, no matter when they occurred.

That is why New Democrats stand with members of the Indo-Canadian community in their call for an official apology from the Parliament of Canada for the Komagata Maru Tragedy.

In 2012, Canada’s New Democrats presented an Opposition Day Motion calling on Stephen Harper and the Conservatives to deliver an apology long overdue — they refused.

While successive Liberal and Conservative governments have failed to do the right thing, the NDP has always advocated for an apology.

Today, we renew our call.

Let’s not wait another 100 years to do the right thing — it’s time for the government to act now.

Mulcair: 100 years after Komagata Maru tragedy, Parliament’s apology is overdue | Toronto Star.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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