Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he will offer a full apology for the infamous Komagata Maru incident that has been remembered as an example of Canada’s discriminatory immigration policies in the early 20th century.
The Komagata Maru, a Japanese steamship, arrived in Burrard Inlet on May 23, 1914, carrying 376 British subjects from India, mainly Sikhs. Officials only allowed a small handful to leave the ship, forcing the rest to stay on board.
Two months later, the ship returned to India. When it arrived, British India police in Calcutta shot 19 of the passengers.
From the archives: Watch Global BC’s in-depth original feature on the history of the Komagata Maru
This year will mark the 102nd anniversary of the incident.
While delivering remarks at a Vaisakhi celebration in Ottawa this morning, Trudeau said the Komagata Maru passengers were refused entry to Canada due to what he called, discriminatory laws of the time.
“The passengers of the Komagata Maru like millions of immigrants to Canada since were seeking refuge and better lives for their families,” said Trudeau.”With so much to contribute to their new home, they chose Canada and we failed them utterly. As a nation, we should never forget the prejudice suffered by the Sikh community at the hands of the Canadian government of the day. We should not and we will not.”
Trudeau says he will stand in the House of Commons on May 18 to deliver the full apology.
In 2014, just before the 100th anniversary of the Komagata Maru arriving in Vancouver, the monument in Harbour Green Park commemorating the incident was vandalized. Shortly before that in 2013, a photo was posted online showing someone urinating on the monument, prompting an investigation by the Vancouver Police. No charges were laid in that incident.
-With files from Justin McElroy and Paula Baker