Tuesday, March 20, 2007

KOMAGATA MARU WILL BE RECOGNISED

A memorial in Vancouver and a commemorative stamp are among the options the Canadian government is considering as part of the official recognition of the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, in which 354 Indian migrants were turned back from the country’s shores. But a section of Indo-Canadian community is insisting on its demand that Prime Minister Stephen Harper make a formal apology in Parliament for Canada’s rejection of Indian migrants, mostly Sikhs. It is an emotional issue with the Indian origin community here and Oscar nominated director Deeepa Mehta has announced her new film Exclusion based on the incident.
Conservative MP Jim Abbott, who spent the past four months consulting on the issue for the government, presented a report with his findings to members of the community over the weekend. The Department of Canadian Heritage helped Abbott put together a summary of what happened to the passengers aboard the Komagata Maru after a six-week study of historical documents. “I think it’s a celebration, I think it’s where we were and where we are now,” Abbott was quoted as saying by Canadian Press. “Where we were was excluding (354) people from Canada in a process that was completely legal at the time but that process wouldn’t be reflective of where we are as a nation now.”
The government is now considering a memorial in Vancouver’s Stanley Park and a commemorative stamp among the options as part of an official recognition of the incident. The Komagata Maru ship was chartered out of Hong Kong to carry Indian passengers. When it arrived in Vancouver, it carried 376 passengers, most of them of Sikh origin.Twenty-two of the migrants were deemed to be returning residents and allowed to disembark, but the rest were barred entry because of Canada’s immigration laws.

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