Descendants of Komagata Maru passengers ‘pleased’ by apology

Apologies if made should be done in the House. As former PM Harper discovered, doing so outside satisfies no one (see my earlier Komagatu Maru Apology). Will be particularly powerful with 17 Canadian Sikh MPs:

A century after her great-grandfather was turned away from Canada while on board the Komagata Maru, Sukhi Ghuman will be in the House of Commons this week to hear the Prime Minister apologize for the slight.

“It’s staggering. I don’t think [my great-grandfather] ever thought this moment would come,” says Ms. Ghuman, 36, who will join other descendants of passengers to witness Wednesday’s apology, along with B.C. Premier Christy Clark.

“We’re all just astonished and very pleased Prime Minister [Justin] Trudeau has decided to do a formal apology.”

 Mr. Trudeau will be seeking to make amends for what happened in 1914 when the Komagatu Maru arrived in Vancouver’s harbour from Hong Kong with 376 passengers, mostly Sikhs from India.

Only 24 were allowed to land, while the rest remained on board the ship for two months – victims of the era’s exclusionary laws. The ship’s passengers and crew then returned to India, where 19 people were killed on its arrival in Calcutta in a skirmish with British soldiers. Others were jailed.

Harnam Singh Sohi – Ms. Ghuman’s great-grandfather – came from Punjab hoping to work in Vancouver to provide funds for his family in India and bring them to Canada.

Once the ship returned to India, he forever ruled out returning to Canada.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper apologized in 2008, but not in Parliament. Some who were seeking an apology said few knew about Mr. Harper’s apology until it was over.

On Wednesday, Mr. Trudeau will follow up on a long-standing promise and deliver a formal apology in Parliament.

“The laws that were discriminatory against people considered undesirable were passed in Parliament. So the apology being given in Parliament is a circling back to rectify that original wrong,” says Naveen Girn of Vancouver, who has curated exhibitions about the Komagata Maru at Simon Fraser University and Lower Mainland museums.

Mr. Girn, who will also be in Ottawa for the event, notes that a parliamentary apology means the amends are forever preserved in Hansard, which is important.

Source: Descendants of Komagata Maru passengers ‘pleased’ by apology – The Globe and Mail

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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