Family reunification left out of Jason Kenney’s speech at Komagata Maru monument

Just prior to the July 23 unveiling of the federally funded Komagata Maru monument in Coal Harbour, federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney waxed philosophical on the progress made since the tragic events of 1914, when that ship and its human cargo was forcibly expelled from the harbour and the country.

“And now we can say that Canada has learned the lessons from that time,” Kenney told dignitaries and community members convened at Harbour Green Park in Coal Harbour. “We are maintaining the highest sustained levels of immigration in our history, the highest per-capita levels of immigration in the developed world, and half of these newcomers who join us every year come from Asia. Many of them, half of them, come from South Asia. So every year, in a sense, we redeem ourselves from the discriminatory practices of the past.”

Kenney’s comments made no mention of his Conservative government's immigration policies and how they affect family reunification. Reunification is an issue that is close to the heart of former Liberal MP and one-time B.C. premier Ujjal Dosanjh—the first Indo-Canadian premier in Canadian history.

“We are facing some tough times as a result of the Conservative immigration policy, where parents and grandparents can’t join newcomers for at least 13 or 14 years,” Dosanjh said during an interview at the Straight offices in April 2011.

“People are actually now thinking back to Mr. [Pierre] Trudeau’s days, and how lucky we were. I came to Canada and, within 18 months of my arrival, I was able to reunite with my widower father and two younger sisters.”

Unlike his former caucus colleague Joyce Murray, the Liberal MP for Vancouver-Quadra, Dosanjh did not show up at the Komagata Maru monument unveiling.

Kenney’s staff did not make the minister available for an interview either before or after his surprise July 23 visit to Vancouver. Several local politicians, including former park board commissioner Raj Hundal and Surrey-Newton NDP MLA Harry Bains, told the Straight that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has an opportunity to right past wrongs permanently if he apologizes in the House of Commons for the Komagata Maru incident.