NDP Leader Tom Mulcair (Outremont) welcomed the official apology and made the following statement on the anniversary of the Komagata Maru tragedy:
“Over a hundred years ago, 376 passengers boarded a Japanese steamship named Komagata Maru. Most of them were Sikhs from the Punjab region of India, searching for safety and a better life in Canada.
Instead of being welcomed when they arrived in Vancouver, they were refused entry. The ship remained in Burrard Inlet for two months while the passengers were refused basic necessities, like food and water, before all but twenty were sent back to India.
Let’s be clear: The Komagata Maru wasn’t just an “incident”—it was the result of racist and discriminatory laws, much like the Chinese Head Tax, designed to exclude entire groups of people from Canada.
These policies did immeasurable harm. When the ship arrived in Calcutta, police fired on the passengers. Nineteen people were killed. Many more were imprisoned and persecuted.
New Democrats have a long and proud history of standing with the South Asian community in Canada and fighting for justice for the victims.
Four years ago, our former colleagues, Jasbir Sandhu and Jinny Sims, moved a motion in Parliament calling for an official apology for the Komagata Maru. Despite a nation-wide petition campaign that collected thousands of signatures, our motion was voted down by the government of the day.
After years of struggle, we welcome the long-awaited official apology from the Prime Minister in the House of Commons today. This was a dark chapter in the history of a country that has come to recognize diversity and inclusion as a great strength.
While the healing and reconciliation can now truly begin, we owe it to those who were turned away to do more than just apologise. We must ensure that this kind of tragedy can never again be repeated.
That’s why New Democrats will continue to fight for a more welcoming Canada—where diversity is celebrated, families can reunite with loved ones, and the most vulnerable are given refuge in their time of need.”