PM Trudeau And His Large Contingent Of Sikh MPs Make Canada Proud With Unique Vaisakhi Celebratons!
“Great to be at Vaisakhi on the Hill today! I’m proud to celebrate the remarkable contributions of Sikh Canadians,|” PM Justin Trudeau wrote on his Facebook page.
By R. Paul Dhillon
with News Files
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave the Sikh-Canadian and the larger South Asian community a Vaisakhi gift in form of an official apology for the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, something similar to the Chinese Head Tax apology that the Stephen Harper Conservatives did but refused to do the same for the Indo-Canadian community.
During Vaisakhi celebrations on the Hill Monday, Trudeau said his government will stand in the House of Commons to formally apologize for one of Canada's most racist chapters.
In 1914, the Canadian government denied entry to a boat called the Komagata Maru, carrying 376 immigrants from India, which was controlled by Britain at the time.
The majority of passengers were Sikhs, and all were British subjects. The ship was forced to return to India.
Trudeau said the Komagata Maru’s passengers were seeking refuge and better lives, “like millions of immigrants to Canada since.”
“With so much to contribute to their new home, they chose Canada. And we failed them utterly,” he said at an event in Ottawa celebrating Vaisakhi, the Punjabi new year.
“As a nation, we should never forget the prejudice suffered by the Sikh community at the hands of the Canadian government of the day.”
The refusal in Vancouver highlighted the federal government's laws of keeping out Asian immigrants. Many members of the Sikh community in Canada have been pursuing a formal apology for the incident 102 years ago.
In 2015, Former prime minister Harper did apologize for the incident, but it was at a public event in Surrey, B.C. Many Sikh-Canadians felt it would only be acceptable if it was a formal statement in the House of Commons, reported the Huffington Post.
During the election campaign last year, the Liberals said they would issue a formal apology, if elected.
Trudeau said the apology will happen on May 18.
Professor Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation, which has been pushing many previous governments for an apology, thanked the Prime Minister for formally committing a date for the apology.
Sahib Thind, President of the Professor Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation, said their Foundation, a human rights non-profit organization, has been seeking an official Parliamentary apology for this sad chapter in Canadian history for over two decades and via many petitions. The foundation has remained steadfast in its resolve for an official apology in the House of Commons.
The Prof. Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation worked to successfully obtain an apology from the Government of British Columbia (May 23rd, 2008), and on March 25th 2014 worked with the Punjab State Assembly in India for a unanimous resolution to ask the Government of India to encourage the Canadian Government to offer a formal apology in Parliament.
“It is time for us to file away a sad chapter in Canadian history,” said Thind.
“Today’s announcement is the announcement of a date our organization has been working towards for decades. We never asked for any compensation, and single-mindedly kept the goal to be the official apology made in Parliament, and written into Hansard. To the tens of thousands of South Asian Canadians across the land who we represent in this cause, and the many who have worked with us to seek this apology, we say “thank you” for your resolve”.