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Canada: MP demands apology for Komagata Maru tragedy

June 09, 2007 05:55 IST

Liberal MP, Sukh Dhaliwal (Newtown -- North Delta in British Columbia riding) has moved a Private Member's Motion in the House of Commons on Thursday calling on the Canadian Government to apologise for Komagata Maru tragedy of 1914 in which large number of Indians, mostly Sikhs, died.

Komagatu Maru was a Japanese ship that had on board 376 passengers, mostly Sikhs, from India. It tried to dock in a Vancouver port but was denied permission and after several days of keeping them in the international water, the ship was turned back. A number of passengers died due to starvation and all manner of disease on their way back to India.

"That this House apologise for the tragedy of the 1914 Komagata Maru incident and that it ask the government to also apologise and honour this apology by creating a permanent national memorial in British Columbia and a permanent educational exhibit in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (being established in Winnipeg)," says Dhaliwal's motion.

He referred to a report that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage recently presented to his minister concerning this incident, "In which he concluded that there was no consensus within the South Asian community on whether the Government of Canada should issue a formal apology."

According to this Liberal MP, "This conclusion is wrong."

He believes, "It is only through education and remembrance that we can avoid making the same mistakes again. Education has the additional benefit of telling all those who have made Canada their home that they are welcome as full members of the Canadian community and that tragic incidents such as the Komagata Maru are part of the shared history of Canada and all Canadians."

Calling the tragedy a shame, NDP MP Penny Priddy also suggested a few days back in the House of Commons that there should be an official apology.

Ajit Jain in Toronto