Trudeau to formally apologize for 1914 Komagata Maru tragedy

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will offer a full apology in the House of Commons next month for a decision by the government in 1914 to turn away a ship carrying hundreds of South Asian immigrants.

The apology for the Komagata Maru incident will be delivered on May 18, nearly 102 years after the ship from Hong Kong arrived off Vancouver only to have almost all of its 376 passengers — nearly all Sikhs — denied entry due to the immigration laws at the time.

The ship was eventually sent to Kolkata and least 19 people were killed in an ensuing skirmish with British soldiers, while others were jailed.

“We failed them utterly,” Trudeau told a packed room Monday on Parliament Hill at a celebration marking the Sikh holiday of Vaisakhi.

“As a nation we should never forget the prejudice suffered by the Sikh community at the hands of the Canadian government of the day. We should not, we will not.”

Former prime minister Stephen Harper apologized for the incident in 2008 at an event in British Columbia, but members of Canada’s Sikh community have long said an apology should be offered formally in Parliament.

The Komagata Maru in Vancouver's English Bay in May 1914. Stephen Harper apologized for the tragedy at an event in 2008, but Canada's Sikh community wanted to see it recognized officially in Parliament.

FILE PHOTO

The Komagata Maru in Vancouver’s English Bay in May 1914. Stephen Harper apologized for the tragedy at an event in 2008, but Canada’s Sikh community wanted to see it recognized officially in Parliament.

The Liberals have been calling since 2008 for an apology in the Commons and Trudeau repeated that pledge during the election campaign.

Trudeau said Monday while an apology will not ease the pain and suffering of those who lived through the experience, it is the right thing to do and the House of Commons the right place for it to be delivered.

“It was in the House of Commons that the law that prevented the passengers from disembarking were first passed and so it is fitting that the government should apologize there on behalf of all Canadians.”

There are 17 Sikh members of Parliament, including Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

Prior to being elected, Sajjan was the commanding officer of the B.C. military regiment Duke of Connaught’s Own, which over a century ago had been involved in the government’s efforts to turn back the ship.

Majority of Canadians oppose Trudeau’s plan to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees over in just six weeks: poll

BY AILEEN DONNELLY

The majority of Canadians oppose the government’s plan to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees in the next six weeks, and the most common complaint is that there isn’t enough time, a new poll shows.

More than half of Canadians (54 per cent) either moderately or strongly oppose Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plan to bring 25,000 refugees over by Jan. 1, 2016. Meanwhile, 42 per cent moderately or strongly support the plan, according to an Angus Reid Institute poll conducted three days after terrorist attacks killed 129 people in Paris.

Of those who oppose the Liberal government’s refugee plan, the majority (53 per cent) cite tight timelines as their main concern, saying they fear it’s too short to allow for appropriate security checks. Another ten per cent think 25,000 refugees is just too many, while eight per cent say the plan is too expensive. The Liberal government has not released details of their plan, including how they will get all the refugees to Canada and how much it will cost.

Almost one-third (29 per cent) of those who oppose the Liberal plan say Canada should not take in any refugees from the war-torn region. That means about 16 per cent of all poll respondents (those who support and oppose the plan) want to close the nation’s borders to Syrians.

Opposition is highest in Alberta (62 per cent) and lowest in Atlantic Canada (46 per cent).

The poll suggests that Premier Brad Wall is on the right side of public opinion in Saskatchewan.

On Monday, he sent a letter urging Trudeau to slow the intake of Syrian refugees to ensure Canadians aren’t threatened by “malevolent” terrorists.

“I am concerned that the current date-driven plan could severely undermine the refugee screening process,” he wrote.

In Saskatchewan and Manitoba, 59 per cent of respondents opposed Trudeau’s plan and only 36 per cent supported it.

Trudeau reaffirmed his ambitious election promise on Tuesday after several municipal and provincial leaders suggested he was more concerned with speed than security.

“We continue to be very much committed to keeping Canadians safe while we do the right thing to engage responsibly on this humanitarian crisis,” Trudeau said.

Public opinion has changed only slightly in the wake of the attacks allegedly carried out by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists. At the end of last month, another Angus Reid poll found that 51 per cent of Canadians opposed the refugee plan, while 39 per cent said they support it. That survey showed that the refugee plan was the second-most-opposed part of the Liberal platform.

The online survey of 1,503 Canadians — a representative randomized sample drawn from members of the Angus Reid Forum — was conducted on Nov. 16. A probability sample of this size carries a margin of error of plus-or-minus 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.