Gurpreet Singh: Komagata Maru apology campaigners gearing up to thank Trudeau at annual festival in Surrey

    1 of 2 2 of 2

      The local Punjabi community is anxious to thank Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a huge public gathering in Surrey this weekend.

      They're planning to celebrate Trudeau's official apology in the House of Commons in 2016 for a racist incident that occurred more than a century ago.

      The efforts of Surrey-based Prof. Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation culminated in Trudeau's public acknowledgement of the government's role in the expulsion of the Komagata Maru from Vancouver's harbour in July 1914.

      The Japanese vessel carrying more than 350 South Asian passengers was forced to return to India under a discriminatory law aimed at discouraging the permanent settlement of immigrants from South Asia.

      Trudeau officially acknowledged that it was wrong and his apology was received by many Indo Canadians who travelled from the Lower Mainland all the way to Ottawa to witness it.

      Video: Watch Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's apology in the House of Commons for the 1914 Komagata Maru incident.

      In July 2015 when Trudeau was running to become prime minister, he promised to bring a dignified closure to this issue through a formal apology. This pledge came when he was attending an annual community festival organized by the Prof. Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation at Surrey’s Bear Creek Park.

      The foundation launched its campaign seeking an apology way back in 2002 and it collected thousands of signatures on petitions in the following years.

      Its leader, Sahib Singh Thind, told the Straight that his organization invited Trudeau to this year’s festival on Sunday (August 4) in commemoration of Indian revolutionaries who fought against British occupation of their homeland and racism abroad. 

      Thind is hopeful that Trudeau will make it, as the community is keen to honour him for keeping his promise.

      Since Surrey has a sizable South Asian population with a few swing ridings, there is no reason to believe Trudeau won’t be in attendance to connect with thousands of Indo-Canadians who are likely to participate in the festival.

      This event has remained extremely popular for the past two decades, and the federal election is less than three months away.