Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has delivered a formal statement of apology over the Komagata Maru incident.
In 1974, a Japanese steamship called Komagata Maru sailed from Hong Kong, then a part of the British Empire, to Vancouver, British Columbia. It carried 376 passengers from Punjab, mostly Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus, all of whom were British subjects. Upon arrival in Vancouver, however, 352 of them were denied entry to Canada, based on the exclusion laws of the time that were designed to keep out Asian immigrants.
On May 18, in the Canadian House of Commons, Trudeau addressed the descendants of the individuals who were denied entry:
“Today – while knowing that no words can fully erase the pain and suffering experienced by the passengers – I offer a sincere apology on behalf of the government of Canada for the laws in force at the time that allowed Canada to be indifferent to the plight of the passengers of the Komagata Maru.”
He affirmed his government’s commitment to multiculturalism, one of the values enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and described Canada’s rich diversity as a source of strength for the country.
He reflected, “The Komagata Maru incident is a stain on Canada’s past. But the history of our country is one in which we constantly challenge ourselves, and each other, to extend our personal definitions of who is a Canadian. We have learned, and will continue to learn, from the mistakes of our past. We must make sure to never repeat them.”