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Prime Minister Trudeau offers a formal apology for the Komagata Maru incident

I would like to begin by acknowledging the
hard work done by many of my colleagues that has brought us to this historic moment here
today. From my own caucus, I thank the
Members from Surrey-Newton and Winnipeg North for their tireless advocacy. They have petitioned
the Canadian government for years to make the apology that we will make today. I thank
them for their commitment to this cause. From the Opposition benches, special mention
must be made of the Members from Calgary Heritage, Calgary Midnapore and the former Member for
Surrey North. Each deserves recognition for the work they have done to seek resolution
for victims and their families. As do the many organizations that have sought
the same, in particular, the Professor Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation. Mr. Speaker, today I rise in this House to
offer an apology on behalf of the Government of Canada, for our role in the Komagata Maru
incident. [Applause] More than a century ago, a great injustice
took place. On May 23, 1914, a steamship sailed into Burrard
Inlet in Vancouver. On board were 376 passengers of Sikh, Muslim and Hindu origin. Those passengers, like millions of immigrants
to Canada before and since, came seeking better lives for their families. Greater opportunities.
A chance to contribute to their new home. Those passengers chose Canada. When they arrived
here, they were rejected. They were rejected because, at the time, the
Government of Canada had passed legislation on uninterrupted direct passage. In other
words, people who travelled directly to Canada alone were authorized to land in Canada. This measure prevented or would prevent people
from far off lands like India from coming to Canada because at the time it was impossible
to come directly without having a stop over somewhere along the way. When the Komagata Maru arrived in Canada,
only a few passengers were allowed to disembark. Under the legislation, the boat and its passengers
were forced to turn around and leave. Members of the community attempted to convince
authorities to revisit their decision, but they wouldn’t. And on July 23, 1914 – two months after their arrival – the Komagata Maru and its passengers were escorted from the port by the Canadian
Army. They were forced to return to India. 19 passengers were killed and several others
were jailed. Canada does not bear alone the
responsibility for every tragic mistake that occurred with the Komagata Maru and its passengers. But Canada’s government was, without question,
responsible for the laws that prevented these passengers from immigrating peacefully and
securely. For that, and for every regrettable consequence
that followed, we are sorry. [Applause] For that, and for every regrettable consequence
that followed, we are sorry and we offer our most sincere apologies. I apologize, first and foremost, to the victims
of the incident. No words can erase the pain and suffering
they experienced. Regrettably, the passage of time means that none are alive to hear
our apology today. Still, we offer it, fully and sincerely. For our indifference to your plight. For our failure to recognize all that you
had to offer. For the laws that discriminated against you,
so senselessly. And for not apologizing sooner. For all these things, we are truly sorry. I also wish to apologize to the descendants
of the passengers of the Komagata Maru, including those who are here with us today. We can never know what your lives would have
been like had your relatives been welcomed to Canada. The ways in which your lives would have been
different. The ways in which Canada would have been enriched. Those possibilities are lost to history. And for that – and to you – we apologize. Just as we apologize for past wrongs, so too
must we commit ourselves to positive action – to learning from the mistakes of the past,
and to making sure that we never repeat them. That is the unique promise and potential of
Canada. We believe that everyone deserves a genuine
chance to succeed – regardless of who they are, where they’re from. Every day, the
Canadian Southeast Asian community is an example of that success and our success. We believe, we know that diversity is a strength.
We are strong not in spite of our differences, but indeed because of them. And we believe in the values enshrined in
our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including multiculturalism. Mr. Speaker, before I finish, I would like
to acknowledge one more Member who has helped to bring the Komagata Maru incident to our
national attention – our Minister of National Defence. [Applause] In an interesting historical note, before
entering political life, the Minister was the commanding officer of the British Columbia
regiment Duke of Connaught’s Own – the very same regiment that once forced out the
Komagata Maru. A century ago, the Minister’s family might
well have been turned away from Canada. Today, the Minister is an essential member of this
government and sits here in this House. [Applause] Sits in this house, in a House that includes
immigrants. That includes the daughters and sons – and granddaughters and grandsons
– of immigrants. The very makeup of this House should remind
us all that when we have the choice between opening our arms to those in need or closing
our hearts to them, we must always choose the more compassionate path. When we see injustice, we must speak up, and
attempt to make things right. When we make mistakes, we must apologize,
and recommit ourselves to doing better. Mr. Speaker, Canada is a country unlike any
other. We are all blessed to call it home. Let us always endeavour to do better, and
to be better. Let us do that in honour of the victims of
the Komagata Maru incident, and in honour of every courageous person who leaves behind
family and familiar things, to bring to Canada the very best of who they are. Thank you. [Applause]

Jean Kelley



  1. keenermarc306 Posted on May 19, 2016 at 5:55 am

    Ahh! who is the member who can't quit waving and making eyes at someone in the balcony? How distracting during such an important moment in the House!

  2. Peter Bezemer Posted on May 19, 2016 at 10:41 am


  3. Paul Taylor Posted on May 20, 2016 at 3:35 am

    Make us proud Mr. prime minister. Resign!

  4. Shivanshu Gupta Posted on May 20, 2016 at 5:30 am

    He will emerge as the greatest leader in the upcoming days. His polite words has won my heart.

  5. Hong Cong Phan Posted on May 22, 2016 at 2:53 am

    Who has bravery accept what is wrong,openly with public,This Government is Democracy.

  6. Mannat Unique23 Posted on May 25, 2016 at 2:12 am

    Who is that weird person that can't quit waving and making eye contact with some one who let him in its so important Justin Trudeau is trying to say sorry to the Sikhs and he is just acting like what ever I don't care I mean why is he even there if wants to wave to people and not me thankful that he is in the House of Commons he should just quit or try working hard and respect want the prime minister is saying Quit u person in the blue tie with polkadots sitting in that balcony in the third row third person from the right😡😡 it's so rude really ps I'm a Sikh to not getting mad at him because I'm a Sikh but he is wrong Justin Trudeau if u read this comment plz reply and have a talk with him and tell him to stop because in school my class was watching this video and that man kept taking the attentions away so we can hear your speech

  7. DJ Vic Entertainment and Productions Posted on May 23, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    Proud of you Mr PM

  8. SHAKYA BHATTACHARJEE Posted on November 10, 2017 at 9:26 pm

    Thanks Canadian PM. As an Indian I feel so happy and find solace from your sorry. What the UK government could not do even 100 years after its role in the much more diabolical and heinous massacre in Amritsar Canadian PM did. I wish him all the best. He won the heart of 1.3 billion Indians. Now it is the turn of UK government to apologize to Indians for the Jalianwalabugh massacre in 1919