Federal NDP leader Jack Layton called on the government to issue a formal apology in the House of Commons for a case of racism against immigrants from India 93 years ago. In 1914 the Komagata Maru was marooned in Vancouver's harbour for three months with nearly 400 passengers on board, and eventually sent back to Asia.
Having left their lives behind to come to Canada, the ship's passengers—primarily Sikhs from the Punjab region-found themselves turned away by a racist immigration policy in Canada. At least 20 of the individuals on board were later killed by British troops in India when they refused to return to the Punjab. While much time has passed, the incident has long been a source of grievance for the Indo-Canadian community.
Speaking in Surrey, British Columbia, Mr. Layton called on Canadians to recognize the Komagata Maru as part of our history. "There must be an unconditional apology for the racist immigration policies that prevented the docking of that ship, a decision which eventually contributed to the deaths of a significant number of passengers" said Mr. Layton.
The case of the Komagata Maru comes to the forefront just months after Prime Minister Harper apologized officially in the House of Commons for the Chinese head tax policy . Between 1885 and 1923, immigrants from China were forced to pay a heavy fee, ranging from $50 to $500. Along with the apology, the government has also begun to pay restitution to survivors and their widows.