Jason Kenney shows up at unveiling of Komagata Maru memorial

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      Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney paid a surprise visit to a public ceremony today, but that has not swayed former Vancouver park board chair Raj Hundal from his conviction that Kenney's boss should offer a repeat apology.

      Speaking to the Georgia Straight today (July 23) at the official downtown unveiling of a monument to the Komagata Maru passengers from 1914, Hundal said he still believes that Prime Minister Stephen Harper should apologize in the House of Commons for the infamous incident and not think his 2008 apology in a Surrey park was sufficient.

      “I think this is a really important first step,” Hundal said following the unveiling at Harbour Green Park near Coal Harbour. “I want to stress that I was there at Bear Creek Park when the apology was given. [But] it’s really important that we have that apology in the House of Commons, so we have it on official record. I want to [emphasize] the importance of today’s event…But much more work needs to be done as well.”

      More than 100 people were in attendance at the event. According to a release from the office of Nina Grewal, Conservative MP for Fleetwood–Port Kells, the federal government provided more than $82,000 for the location and design of the monument, which honours the memories of 376 Indian passengers (all British subjects) aboard the Komagata Maru.

      Jason Kenney lifts the curtain on the memorial.

      Due to immigration policies of the time, these passengers were not allowed to leave their ship and enter Canada, being forced to exist on donated food and water for two months in the spring and summer while moored offshore in Burrard Inlet . (Nineteen of the passengers were shot and killed by police on their return to India.)

      Former MP Gurmant Grewal, Nina’s husband, told the Straight at the event that he was not going to ask for an apology in the House.

      “My opinion is, why did the community not say it at the event when they had the opportunity to say it?” Gurmant said, referring to the August 2008 apology at a community gathering in Surrey. “It is individual opinions, but we need to move forward.”

      By way of explanation, Gurmant said that when a mistake has happened, the first step is to acknowledge it, the second is to apologize for it, and the last step is to ensure it never happens again.

      “In the South Asian communities…when you have to say sorry, you go to the other person or victim’s house…and you say, ‘I have come to apologize,’ ” Gurmant told the Straight. “You never say, ‘Please come to my house at three o’clock; I want to apologize.’ Keeping that tradition alive, the prime minister did stand up and say sorry.”

      Two of Surrey’s established NDP MLAs differed with Gurmant.

      “I think it has a different standing when it’s a formal apology in the Parliament,” Bruce Ralston, Surrey-Whalley MLA, told the Straight at the event. “I was there in the park when he made the statement, and I think it carries a different political weight when you say it in the Parliament.”

      Harry Bains, NDP MLA for Surrey-Newton, told the Straight: “I think the community appreciates this type of initiative, but there is still a big majority that would like to see a formal apology inside the Parliament, just like other apologies that were made on behalf of many other communities. That will put an end to this movement, as far as looking for redress and looking at healing the wounds. I think that is one area the prime minister should seriously consider, then we can move on to the next chapter.”

      Earlier on in the proceedings, Kenney made a point of being there to unveil the plaque showing an archive photo of the Komagata Maru’s passengers jammed on the ship’s deck while temporarily tied up at the docks that used to exist close to the modern event in Coal Harbour.

      “Welcome to this historic moment as we commemorate permanently here at Burrard Inlet the tragically unjust voyage of 1914,” Kenney told the crowd. “Everyone who is here knows this story, and we know that the policy that resulted in the refusal of the passengers of the Komagata Maru was the ‘continuous journey’ policy that was designed specifically to prevent people, Canadians, of South Asian origin—excuse me, people of South Asian origin—from migrating to Canada. These brave people sought to challenge that injustice and they were not welcome.”

      Many other community leaders and politicians of all stripes and levels of government were present at the event.

      Raj Hundal thanks those who worked to make the monument a reality.



      bill miner

      Jul 23, 2012 at 8:14pm

      Harper and this clown Jason Kenney are nothing but a pair of bigots that have no interest in treating people equal. If the ex stream right wing which they represent continues to get there way in this country it will not be long before we will be same as the USA.


      Jul 23, 2012 at 8:35pm

      so, in 100 years or so, we'll do another unveiling for how jason kenney treated the tamil refugees. yay, everything is fine.


      Jul 24, 2012 at 7:09am

      Ah, those were the days when the law meant something.

      Why should the current Prime Minister, who was not born yet in those days, apologize? And for what? Canada upholding the law?

      Hindu - Stan

      Jul 24, 2012 at 7:34am

      Will there be a memorial to the Air India victims also?

      One that names all the women and children who died and the names of all those Sikhs who assisted in this gross act of Terrorism.

      This is just an act of Federal Conservative Vote Buying.


      Jul 24, 2012 at 9:48am

      Jason Kenney blasted a Norman Bethune commemoration, saying that the guy was a Mao-loving fool in cahoots with a mass murderer. Even though Bethune died during the Sino-Japanese War, supporting our ally.

      A fool, or a twister, or both!

      Leslie Anthony

      Jul 24, 2012 at 12:56pm

      Jason kenny is scum-sucking pond slime like all Harperites. The conservatives are a genuine Canadian cancer.

      Mark Fornataro

      Jul 24, 2012 at 1:27pm

      There should absolutely be an apology in the House of Commons for the shameful Komagata Maru incident. If Harper's family was turned back at the border of some country for the colour of their skin, you can be sure he'd be hollering for an apology. And with all the time wasted in the Commons by the Cons. trying to turn back the clock on environmental progress, firearm safety and other reactionary initiatives, here's a a chance to actually use that time to do something honourable.

      Please, Please, Please

      Jul 24, 2012 at 2:00pm

      "Ah, those were the days when the law meant something."

      I dont doubt that you also wistfully pine for the days of Jim Crow as well.

      Take some time to educate yourself about the "Continous Passage Order" in order to learn about the kind of law that you want to be enforced.

      Immigration Backlog

      Jul 24, 2012 at 9:01pm

      Still Kenney is doing what Canadian did is past.
      Refusing 300000 applicants who applied for immigration in 2004, 2005 to till Feb 2008.
      Shame on Conservatives