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'Canada should apologise for the Komagata Maru incident'

August 18, 2009 20:29 IST

Professor Ranta Ghosh of McGill University believes the Canadian government should offer a formal apology in Parliament for the Komagata Maru incident.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered an apology in Surrey, British Columbia, before about 8,000 people August last year. 

'We haven't always lived up to our highest ideals,' he said and referred to a resolution that was adopted in the House of Commons last year that recognized 'the Komagata Maru tragedy and apologizing to those who were directly affected. Following that, on behalf of the government of Canada, I am, as Prime Minister, officially conveying that apology.'

Many Sikh said the apology was not acceptable as people were expecting the prime minister to issue a full apology in the House of Commons as he has earlier done in the case of another historical wrong, the Chinese head tax.

"There are two factions in the Sikh community," Ghosh explained, "and one faction says Prime Minister Harper should have offered an apology in Parliament as he did in case of others. There's technicality involved here  -- when it is announced in Parliament it becomes part of the historical record and it is properly recorded."

That is why, she added, "It is important for it [the apology] to be done in Parliament."

Jack Uppal, chair of the newly formed Community Historical Recognition Program, differed a bit.

'Maybe they're justified that the apology should have taken place in the halls of the Parliament. I am not taking that away from them at all,' Uppal said at the August 1 event where Kenney announced the new Community Historical Recognition Programme.

But the fact is, Uppal added, that the prime minister 'came here… and made the apology in front of thousands and thousands of people. '

Had he offered an apology in Parliament, he added, 'only a few of us could have gone to Ottawa or any other place to have accepted this apology. He came to the shores of Barrard Inlet where this ship was moored for so many days. He came to our backyards.'

Ajit Jain