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British Columbia lawmakers apologise for Komagata Maru episode

May 24, 2008 20:03 IST

British Columbia lawmakers marked the 94th anniversary of the infamous Komagata Maru incident by voting to offer an apology, for the treatment meted out to Indian passengers, who were denied entry to Canada after arriving at Vancouver harbour.

The Komagata Maru ship had arrived carrying 376 people, most of them Sikhs from India's Punjab province on May 23, 1914, mere months before the First World War began.

The British subjects, however, were denied entry to Canada, and after being anchored in Vancouver's Burrard Inlet for about two months, the ship returned to India, only to be met with police gunfire and about 20 deaths.

Politicians on both sides of BC's legislature made emotional statements during the debate,  offering apologies for what they called a 'dark chapter in the country's history'.

Liberal House Leader Mike de Jong, part of whose message was spoken in Punjabi and translated into English, said "Forgive us, you are welcome."

Opposition House Leader Mike Farnworth said that BC needs to acknowledge the difficult periods of its history, like the Komagata Maru episode, in order for the province to understand where it stands today.

"Have we really eradicated racism?" Liberal backbencher John Nuraney said, adding, "it is the duty of Canadians to be vigilant as they guard against acts of racism".

Earlier this week, Ottawa had offered an apology, for what has become known in Canadian history as the Komagata Maru incident.

Relatives of some of the ship's passengers were at the BC legislature on Friday to witness what they called a 'historic healing gesture' on behalf of the provincial government.

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