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Canada PM Trudeau to apologise in Parliament for 1914 decision denying entry to migrant Sikhs

Canadian Sikhs have for long been demanding a formal apology in the Canadian Parliament for this grave historical wrong

By: AP | Ottawa/new Delhi |
April 12, 2016 3:30:10 am
Trudeau apology, Komagata Maru, Sikhs denied entry at Vancouver, Asian migrants disallowed in Canada, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had pledged to make an apology during his election campaign (File/AP)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he will offer a full apology in Parliament next month for a government decision in 1914 to turn away a ship carrying hundreds of South Asian immigrants.

As a British dominion, Canada had very strict immigration laws so as to discourage immigration, especially from Asia. The law permitted entry only to those who were making continuous journeys from their country, which was impossible to do from India.

The Komagata Maru incident occurred in this background, in which a Japanese steamship departed from Hong Kong towards Canada, carrying Indian passengers mostly from Punjab. When it arrived in Vancouver, it was not permitted to dock and the passengers were barred from disembarking. Three hundred and fifty two out of 376 passengers, nearly all Sikhs, were denied entry due to this immigration law.

The ship was eventually made to return to India. On its arrival in Calcutta (now Kolkata), the passengers were put under guard by the British and several persons were arrested. The ensuing assault led to the death of 19 people while many others were jailed.

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Former prime minister Stephen Harper had earlier apologised at an event in British Columbia in 2008, but members of the Sikh community have long said an apology should be offered formally in Parliament.

Trudeau had pledged to make an apology during his election campaign last year.

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