Jasbir Sandhu introduces motion, launches national petition campaign

New Democrat MP Jasbir Sandhu (Surrey North) put forward a motion demanding that Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially apologize in the House of Commons to the South Asian community for the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, in which passengers were prevented from landing in Canada. He is also launching a nation-wide petition campaign to collect signatures from Canadians supporting the apology.

“The tragedy of the Komagata Maru marks a dark chapter in Canadian history,” said Sandhu. “The Conservatives must provide closure on the trauma this has caused in the South Asian community. That is the only way that healing and reconciliation can begin.”

Stephen Harper’s failed attempt to make an informal apology in 2008 at an outdoor festival in Surrey was widely regarded as rude and insincere by the community.

“The Conservatives are continuing to deny an official apology for this incident in the House of Commons and it is very disrespectful,” said Sandhu. “A dignified, official apology for the Komagata Maru tragedy is long overdue. That is why the NDP is bringing forward yet another motion, another demand, for this government to finally do the right thing and apologize in Parliament.”

May 23 will mark the 98th anniversary of the date the ship’s arrival from Hong Kong to Vancouver. Due to the discriminatory “continuous journey” regulation, passengers were prevented from disembarking while the ship remained in Burrard Inlet for two months, and passengers were denied basic necessities, including food and water. The ship carried 376 passengers from India. The NDP first called for an official apology in January, 2007.