Gurpreet Singh: NDP candidate Aman Singh laid foundation for historic Komagata Maru apology

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      Aman Singh, the New Democratic Party candidate in Richmond-Queensborough, has star quality within the South Asian community.

      A lawyer by profession, Singh was instrumental in drafting the petition that led to the historic apology in the House of Commons last year for the Komagata Maru episode.

      A Japanese vessel carrying more than 300 South Asian passengers was forced to return to British-ruled India by Canadian authorities in July 1914. This was done under discriminatory immigration laws of that era that were passed to keep Canada as a white man’s country and to discourage immigration from India.

      In May 2016, the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made his official apology in Parliament to the South Asian community.

      Prior to that, thousands of people signed the petition. Launched by the Prof. Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation in 2002, it was presented in the House of Commons on a number of occasions by various MPs belonging to different political parties.

      As a result of these efforts, former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper issued an apology at an annual community fair organized by the foundation in Surrey in 2008. However, that expression of sorrow was rejected by the community because it wasn't done in the House of Commons.

      The Komagata Maru remained in Vancouver's harbour for two months before being forced back out to sea by Canadian immigration officials.

      Finally, Trudeau brought a closure to the issue by doing this in Parliament, which was widely welcomed, including by descendants of Komagata Maru passengers.

      Singh rendered his services by drafting the petition and collecting signatures from ordinary people.

      Now, he is running with a hope to bring change through electoral politics.

      Being a turbaned Sikh, he has first-hand understanding of racial discrimination and prejudices, and hopes to address this issue if he wins in the May 9 provincial election. Already, his party has committed to bring back the B.C. Human Rights Commission that was dismantled by the B.C. Liberal government in 2002, making B.C. the only province in Canada without such a body.

      Singh believes that a commission is even more relevant today in light of growing bigotry and racism ever since Donald Trump was elected U.S. president.

      If elected Singh could create a history by becoming the first turbaned Sikh MLA in B.C.

      B.C. Liberal Gurminder Singh Parihar, an accountant, is another turbaned Sikh candidate seeking to achieve the same distinction. He's running against NDP incumbent Harry Bains in Surrey-Newton. 

      Gurminder Singh Parihar is a turbaned Sikh running for the B.C. Liberals in Surrey-Newton.

      If either Singh or Parihar is elected, it will be a historic moment for B.C. Sikhs.

      However, Singh faces a challenge from a strong rival of South Asian ancestry in his riding. Jas Johal, a former Global B.C. broadcaster, is considered a star candidate for the B.C. Liberal party.

      Singh is hoping for big support from the working class, both within and outside the local South Asian community, who will be attracted to his party's stances on affordability and more funding for public services while seeing the B.C. Liberals as a party for the rich and privileged.

      Gurpreet Singh is a Georgia Straight contributor and a founder of Radical Desi. He's working on a book tentatively titled Canada's 9/11: Lessons from the Air India Bombings