Punjab deputy CM hails Canada’s move to apologise

Chandigarh, April 12 (IANS) Punjab’s Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal on Tuesday hailed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s move to apologise for the then Canadian government’s decision in 1914 to deny entry to a boatful of Indians into the country.

“It is very heartening that the Canadian government has decided to apologise in the country’s parliament for the Komagata Maru episode to acknowledge the hurt caused to the (Sikh) community in 1914,” Badal said.

On the occasion, Badal recalled Gurdit Singh who had rented Japanese ship ‘Komagata Maru’ to rescue Punjabis stranded in Hong Kong and took them to Canada in 1914.

“The Shiromani Akali Dal has been pushing for years for this formal apology in the Canadian parliament and the Trudeau government has at last decided to offer the apology,” Badal said in a statement here.

Trudeau announced on Monday that he will offer a full apology for a government decision in 1914 to deny entry to the Sikhs and Indians in the country.

“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 was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying.

“That is why, on May 18, I will stand in the House of Commons and offer a full apology for the Komagata Maru incident,” he said.

The chartered Japanese ship Komagata Maru sailed into the Vancouver harbour on May 23, 1914, with 376 people from Punjab. Most of them were Sikhs.

The Canadian government refused to allow the passengers to disembark and Komagata Maru sat in the harbour for two months. On July 23, 1914, the Komagata Maru was escorted out to sea by a Canadian naval cruiser and it returned to India, where 20 people were killed as they tried to disembark and the others were jailed by the then British Indian government authorities.

The Punjab assembly passed a resolution on May 26, 2015, seeking an apology from the Canadian parliament for the tragedy.

Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, the first Sikh-Canadian to command a Canadian army reserve regiment, tweeted on Monday that he is “truly honoured” by Trudeau’s commitment to a formal apology.

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