The Punjab Vidhan Sabha passed a resolution regarding condemning the Komagata Massacre in 1915 and sought apology from the Canadian government. The Canadian Govt has already apologized in 2008 with the PM and top officials all providing statements and since then has commemorated the Martyrs with a memorial and several exhibitions of the incident.
The Komagata Maru incident involved a Japanese steamship which was leased by Baba Gurdit Singh, Komagata Maru, that sailed from Hong Kong, Shanghai, China to Yokohama, Japan and then to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in 1914, carrying 376 passengers from Punjab, British India.
Congress leader Rajinder Kaur Bhattal said, “a lot of time has passed since the incident and resolution has been passed seeking apology from Canada.” She went onto say that they’ve apologized to other countries but not to India which resulted in the British killing innocent Sikhs onboard Komagata Maru after it arrived in Calcutta.
On this issue, a senior talk show host Kanwar Sandhu said, “Punjab Vidhan Sabha resolution for Canada to apologise for Kamagata Maru (1914) is meaningless. Canadian PM had already apologised in 2008.”
“For death of 19 persons in Budge Budge port violence on Kamagata Maru ship in 1915, Punjab House should seek apology from UK, not Canada,” added Sandhu.
Return From Canada After Refusal
Komagata Maru arrived in Calcutta on September 27 after Canada refused to admit the Punjabis into the country.
Upon entry into the harbour, the ship was stopped by a British gunboat, and the passengers were placed under guard. The government of the British Raj saw the men on Komagata Maru not only as self-confessed lawbreakers, but also as dangerous political agitators. When the ship docked at Budge Budge, the police went to arrest Baba Gurdit Singh and the 20 or so other men that they saw as leaders. He resisted arrest, a friend of his assaulted a policeman and a general riot ensued.
Shots were fired, 19 of the passengers were killed. Some escaped, but the remainder were arrested and imprisoned or sent to their villages and kept under village arrest for the duration of the First World War. This incident became known as the Budge Budge Riot.
The apology should be sought from the British as their bullets killed the 19 Punjabis.
Canada’s Commemoration and Apologies
A plaque commemorating the 75th anniversary of the departure of Komagata Maru was placed in the Sikh gurdwara (temple) in Vancouver on July 23, 1989.
A plaque commemorating the 80th anniversary of the arrival of Komagata Maru was placed in the Vancouver harbour in 1994.
A monument in remembrance of the Komagata Maru incident was unveiled in July 23, 2012. It is located near the steps of the seawall that lead up to the Vancouver Convention Centre West Building in Coal Harbour.
A stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Komagata Maru was released by Canada Post on May 1, 2014
The first phase of the Komagata Maru Museum was opened in June 2012 at the Khalsa Diwan Society Vancouver Ross Street Temple.
In response to calls for the government of Canada to address historic wrongs involving immigration and wartime measures, the Conservative government in 2006 created the community historical recognition program to provide grant and contribution funding for community projects linked to wartime measures and immigration restrictions and a national historical recognition program to fund federal initiatives, developed in partnership with various groups. The announcement was made on June 23, 2006, at the time Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized in the House of Commons for the head tax against Chinese immigrants.
On August 6, 2006, Prime Minister Harper made a speech at the Ghadri Babiyan da Mela (Festival of the Ghadar Party) in Surrey, B.C., where he stated that the government of Canada acknowledged the Komagata Maru incident and announced the government’s commitment to “undertake consultations with the Indo-Canadian community on how best to recognize this sad moment in Canada’s history.”
On April 3, 2008, Ruby Dhalla, MP for Brampton—Springdale, tabled motion 469 (M-469) in the House of Commons which read, “That, in the opinion of the House, the government should officially apologize to the Indo-Canadian community and to the individuals impacted in the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, in which passengers were prevented from landing in Canada.”
On May 10, 2008, Jason Kenney, Secretary of State (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity), announced the Indo-Canadian community would be able to apply for up to $2.5 million in grants and contributions funding to commemorate the Komagata Maru incident.
Following further debate on May 15, 2008, Dhalla’s motion was passed by the House of Commons.
On May 23, 2008, the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia unanimously passed a resolution “that this Legislature apologizes for the events of May 23, 1914, when 376 passengers of the Komagata Maru, stationed off Vancouver harbour, were denied entry by Canada. The House deeply regrets that the passengers, who sought refuge in our country and our province, were turned away without benefit of the fair and impartial treatment befitting a society where people of all cultures are welcomed and accepted.”
On August 3, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appeared at the 13th annual Ghadri Babiyan Da Mela (festival) in Surrey, B.C., to issue an apology for the Komagata Maru incident. He said, in response to the House of Commons motion calling for an apology by the government, “On behalf of the government of Canada, I am officially conveying as prime minister that apology.”
Some members of the Sikh community were unsatisfied with the apology as they expected it to be made in Parliament. Secretary of State Jason Kenney said, “The apology has been given and it won’t be repeated,” thus settling the matter for the federal government.
As an example of how Canadian society has changed, the British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own), which was involved in the expulsion of the Komagata Maru, has been commanded by a Sikh since 2011.