Komagata Maru monument provokes no apology in Parliament by federal government
Former Vancouver park commissioner Raj Hundal says the unveiling on Monday (July 23) of a federally funded monument commemorating the 1914 Komagata Maru incident will be a “step in the right direction”.
However, Hundal also noted that an apology in Parliament for this chapter in Canada’s history of dealing with immigration from Asia is “long overdue”.
“It’s important to note that the South Asian community has not asked for any monetary compensation,” Hundal told the Straight in a phone interview. “All they want is a formal apology given in the House of Commons.”
July 23 is the 98th anniversary of the day the Komagata Maru, a chartered ship carrying mostly Sikh immigrants, was forced out to sea from Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet. It had arrived two months earlier, and its passengers had not been allowed to disembark. The ship returned to India, where some of its passengers were killed by British soldiers.
On August 3, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized for the Komagata Maru episode at a community event in Surrey’s Bear Creek Park. “If he can make an apology in a park, why not make an apology in the House of Commons and make it part of the official record?” said Hundal, who is now the B.C. NDP’s candidate for Surrey-Tynehead.
Vancouver’s Khalsa Diwan Society, which runs the Sikh temple on Ross Street, received money from Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Community Historical Recognition Program for the monument project. While he was park commissioner, Hundal worked with the group to find a site, in the end settling on Harbour Green Park, at the north foot of Bute Street in Coal Harbour.
Khalsa president Sohan Deo said in a telephone interview that his group has invited Minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney and other members of Parliament to the Monday ceremony, which starts at 2 p.m.
Deo also said that because Harper has already apologized for the Komagata Maru incident at a public event, it is “very hard” to convince the Conservative government to do it again in Parliament.