House of Commons Hansard #70 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ndp.


(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #79

Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.


The Speaker Peter Milliken

I declare the motion lost.

The House resumed from March 12 consideration of the motion.

Half-masting of Peace Tower Flag
Private Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


The Speaker Peter Milliken

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on Motion No. 310.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #80

Half-masting of Peace Tower Flag
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


The Speaker Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

It being 5:50 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Komagata Maru Incident
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Ruby Dhalla Brampton—Springdale, ON


That, in the opinion of the House, the government should officially apologize to the Indo-Canadian community and to the individuals impacted in the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, in which passengers were prevented from landing in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, in 1914 a huge injustice occurred in our nation, an injustice that left a huge black mark on our nation's history, an injustice and tragedy that will forever serve as a reminder of the struggles and challenges that immigrants have encountered in their hope for a better future in Canada. The incident, the injustice and the tragedy that I speak of is the incident of the Komagata Maru.

On May 23, 1914, the Komagata Maru, a passenger ship, arrived in Vancouver at the Burrard Inlet with 376 passengers from India. On board were 340 Sikhs, 12 Hindus and 24 Muslims. Many of them had fought alongside the British in wars and gave their lives for the commonwealth. They were British citizens coming to a commonwealth country, yet upon their arrival they were horrified to learn that they would be denied the opportunity to disembark and enter Canada. The grounds were Canada's immigration laws, exclusionary, discriminatory and racist, passed in the 1900s and designed to select immigrants based on race and country of origin.

Legislation was passed which stated that to be admitted to Canada, immigrants were required to come by continuous journey from their countries of birth and to have at least $200. Even though the continuous journey regulation did not mention race or nationality, it was indeed an open secret that the regulation was intended to be applied to those coming from India or China.

Hence, Canadian authorities did not permit these passengers on the Komagata Maru to leave the boat. For two months these passengers lived in prison like conditions, with little food and water. They lived in conditions of famine, starvation and disease. The Indo-Canadian community at that time, in particular those from the Khalsa Diwan Society, struggled to assist them and fruitlessly negotiate on their behalf in order for them to stay in Canada. Unfortunately, despite their efforts and struggles, at the end of the two months, only 24 passengers were given permission to stay in Canada. The rest were ordered deported.

On July 23, 1914, the Canadian government of the day brought in the cruiser, HMCS Rainbow, which aimed its guns at the Komagata Maru and ordered for it to be escorted out of Canadian waters. Friends and supporters watched this bitter and horrific injustice as it was the first time that the Canadian navy had used a ship for aggression.

A journey that had begun on April 4, 1914, from India ended on September 29, 1914, when the Komagata Maru returned to Calcutta, India. Upon its return, some of the passengers were killed and others arrested.

This tragedy is an injustice and serves to remind us of this dark chapter in our nation's history. Ninety-four years later, this chapter still remains open. Neither the Indo-Canadian community nor those who were impacted or affected have ever received an apology from the government for this mistake of the past.

Many before me have raised this issue, individuals from the Indo-Canadian community, municipal, provincial and federal politicians, like the members for Newton—North Delta, Bramalea—Gore—Malton, people like Sahib Thind of the Professor Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation, Sukhi Badh of Radio Punjab, Mr. Gurbinder Dhaliwal of Radio Sher-e-Punjab, Radio India's Maninder Gill and Gurpreet Singh and Kulwinder from Red FM. However, despite their efforts and persistence, an apology has yet to be received.

Some Canadians might ask why this is important to raise nearly a century later. It is ironic that 90 years later we have another Conservative government that is once again deciding to overhaul our immigration system, which would perhaps provide the minister with discretionary powers to pick and choose who comes to our nation.

We only need to be reminded of the injustices of the past, injustices like the Komagata Maru incident, or the time from 1885 to 1923 when there was a head tax for the Chinese, or the period from 1923 to 1945 where strict immigration rules prohibited the Jewish from entering our country.

Those were not proud moments in our nation's history. We must not, as a nation, go back to the politics of exclusion, discrimination or racism. We must move forward as a country.

As a proud Canadian, a proud Sikh and a proud Indo-Canadian, I have seen and heard first-hand how the injustices of the Komagata Maru incident has left families around the world, including many in the Indo-Canadian community, with scars and with pain that can never be forgotten.

In 2006 there was a glimmer of hope when the Prime Minister spoke at the Gadri Babiyian da Mela Festival in Vancouver and stated:

I also want you to know that the Government of Canada acknowledges the Komagata Maru incident and we will soon undertake consultations with the Indo-Canadian community on how best to recognize this sad moment in our history.

As I stand here today I cannot help but wonder why nearly two years after making this commitment there has been absolutely no progress. Why is it that two years later the community continues to wait?

This is an opportunity today for the Prime Minister and the Conservative government to follow their words with action and correct a wrong that occurred during a time when there was another Conservative prime minister.

We, as Canadians and as parliamentarians, cannot play politics with this issue. No apology 94 years after the injustice and 2 years after the government acknowledged the incident is a tragedy in itself.

When we as a nation have done wrong in the past we have always done the right thing and the courageous thing. We have always apologized.

In 1988, a formal apology and acknowledgement of unjust treatment and violation of human rights was given regarding the Japanese Canadian internment. On June 22, 2006, an apology was given to the Chinese for the implementation of the Chinese head tax. Just recently, in November 2007, Parliament passed a motion recognizing that Japan used women as sex slaves during World War II and encouraged the federal government to press the government of Japan to make a formal and sincere apology to all victims referred to as comfort women.

However, I would urge all of my colleagues today, regardless of their political stripes, regardless of their political affiliation, to put partisan politics aside and do the right thing and support this motion.

It is with a great deal of pride that when one looks at Canada we see the rest of the world. Canada is a symbol of hope for so many, a country in which equality, opportunity, acceptance and respect are our hallmarks. We are a nation in which there are over five million visible minorities, all having the chance to succeed and to realize and fulfill their dreams.

Canada is a nation that has been built on the hard work, the vision, the passion and the efforts of immigrants. We are a nation in which, despite events like the Chinese head tax and the Komagata Maru, Canadians from the Sikh community, the Indian community, have been able to succeed, to achieve, to prosper and to contribute to the building of a better and brighter future for our nation.

It is so imperative that we be able to reflect and learn from our mistakes. We must never forget as Canadians where we come from, the sacrifices that have been made by those who have come before us and the struggles and challenges that we have faced as a nation to truly become the symbol of hope, the envy of the rest of the world.

We must move forward as Canadians and as a nation. We must turn the page on this dark chapter in our nation's history. We must begin that process with three simple words: We are sorry.

Komagata Maru Incident
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.


Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a very simple question for the member for Brampton—Springdale. At what point do we stop apologizing? At what point do we set the limit for apologies that the Government of Canada would make to various groups, to Canadians, for past injustices?

The incident she raises was truly a tragedy. It was a most unfortunate incident. In the decades that have passed since that tragic incident, the country has become more enlightened and has progressed and has a very different view of what it means to be a citizen of this great country.

However, at what point do we, as a country, establish a limit for these apologies? Many injustices have been done to immigrants of various ethnic backgrounds in decades and centuries past, whether they were Irish, Scottish or Jewish immigrants. At what point do we set those limits?

Until recent decades, the University of Toronto, for example, had quotas for certain minorities to restrict their entry into professional schools. At what point do we say that, yes, those were injustices but we will move on, we will look to the future and we will deal with injustices in our time?

Komagata Maru Incident
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.


Ruby Dhalla Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, there have been many injustices that have occurred in the past. We only need to take a stroll down memory lane to realize that from 1885 until 1923 there was a head tax on the Chinese. The Chinese people were not even given the right to vote federally until 1947. If we take a look at the Italian community, the German community and the Jewish community, they have all been impacted by injustices that have occurred. Programs have been set up to provide the opportunity for students, for future generations and for youth to be educated on the struggles and the challenges that have been faced in the past.

We have done the right thing, as parliamentarians, as a government previously, to apologize to the Chinese and the Japanese community. It is unfortunate that in this particular situation, for this grave injustice and dark chapter in our history, that the Indo-Canadian community has received no apology.

I do not think that we as parliamentarians and elected officials representing our constituents should be pitting one ethnic community against another. That is not the right approach. However, when an injustice as grave as this one has occurred, it is an opportunity for all of us to do the right thing, to provide that leadership and issue an apology for a grave injustice that was done in the past.

Komagata Maru Incident
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.



Bev Oda Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening very intently to the arguments put forward by the hon. member on the opposition side. I would like to ask the member why it took a Conservative government to apologize to the Japanese Canadians. Why, over 13 years of Liberal government, was nothing done when the Chinese were asking for acknowledge and an apology? Why did it take this Conservative government to compensate and recognize the Chinese Canadians? Why, if the Komagata Maru victims are asking for recognition, which went back over 20 years, did the Liberals, when they were in power for years, not act on this?

This is just another demonstration by the members opposite that, instead of trying to do the right thing on principle, they are now asking for something that they had the power to do when they were in power. They do not believe they should act on principle. They only want power so they only say things at times when they think they will be re-elected to power rather than on principle.

Could the member tell me why, in all the many years that her government had the ability to do what she is asking, did it not do what she is asking this government to do?

Komagata Maru Incident
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Ruby Dhalla Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, need I remind the member that it was the Conservative government that came in and cancelled $55 million of the acknowledged commemorate and educational program for many of these injustices that have been done. This is an issue on which we cannot have partisan politics. It is an issue where all parliamentarians should come together and do the right thing and issue an apology.

I must remind the hon. member that in 2006 the Prime Minister stood at an event with the Indo-Canadian community in Vancouver and stated that he would try to move forward on a recognition. It has been two years later and this motion is an opportunity for the Prime Minister to back up his words with action, instead of empty rhetoric, to do the right thing and to support this motion because Canadians are counting on the Conservatives to do that.

Komagata Maru Incident
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak today to the government's position on Motion No. 469, which reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should officially apologize to the Indo-Canadian community and to the individuals impacted in the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, in which passengers were prevented from landing in Canada.

I would like to start by acknowledging the member for Brampton—Springdale and to thank her for bringing this important incident to the attention of the House.

I do not think anyone here today is proud of the treatment that the 354 passengers of the Komagata Maru, who were not allowed to land, received from the Government of Canada. I know that I am not.

The passengers on board the ship were not allowed to land in Canada because they had not come to Canada by a continuous journey which was required under the immigration regulations that were in place at the time. They were not allowed to land because cabinet had decreed that immigrants from Asia were required to have a minimum of $200 on arrival. This was no small sum in 1914. By today's standards, I think most people would agree that this was discriminatory.

Even though the immigration regulations were found by the courts to be valid at the time, most observers today would agree that they do not reflect current Canadian values. How could anyone on the ship not feel that they were being treated as second class citizens of the British Empire?

The decision to turn the Komagata Maru away from Canada had even more dire consequences when the ship arrived back in India. Attempts by British officials to transport the passengers back to the Punjab provoked a riot in which 20 of the passengers were killed.

This was a bleak moment for Canada. It is one of the most notorious incidents in the sad chapter of exclusion laws in Canadian history.

At the time of the Komagata Maru incident there were only a few thousand immigrants from India in Canada. Most of them arrived late in the 19th century and they settled in the Vancouver area. Despite the discrimination they experienced on an almost daily basis, they were determined to make a home of their new country and they persevered to build better lives for themselves and for their children.

Today, Canada's Indo-Canadian community has grown to about three-quarters of a million people. They have been instrumental in building a vibrant economy and society not only in British Columbia but indeed right across Canada. They have risen to prominent positions in every facet of our society. They have become an important part of the multicultural mosaic that we are so proud of here in Canada today.

The Prime Minister acknowledged the lasting contribution that Indo-Canadians have made to our prosperity and cultural diversity in August 2006. I would like to read a brief excerpt from a speech the Prime Minister made at the Gadri Babiyian da Mela Festival in Surrey. He said, “Simply put, you're helping to build a stronger Canada that benefits all of us. When you succeed, Canada succeeds, and it's no secret that the Indo-Canadian community has amassed an enviable record of success, one which stems from the values that underlie this community: hard work, a dedication to the pursuit of excellence and a commitment to family, community and country”.

In that speech, the Prime Minister acknowledged the Komagata Maru incident and announced that the government would consult with the Indo-Canadian community on the best way to recognize this sad moment in Canadian history.

Our government has shown leadership on this issue. A short time after the Prime Minister's speech in Surrey, the Minister of Canadian Heritage asked her parliamentary secretary, the member for Kootenay—Columbia, to lead consultations on the tragic Komagata Maru incident. We will hear about his consultations later in this debate.

Consultations are one thing but without action to follow them up they do not amount to much. That is why my government has established two new programs: the community historical recognition program and the national historical recognition program.

The community historical recognition program is a grants and contributions program. It will provide funding for community based projects that will allow ethnocultural communities affected by wartime measures and immigration restrictions that were applied in Canada to promote awareness of their experiences and to have them recognized. The program will also highlight the contributions these communities have made to Canadian society.

The second program, the national historical recognition program, is designed to fund federal initiatives that will inform Canadians, particularly youth, about historical incidents or episodes related to wartime measures and immigration practices.

This program will also focus on the contributions made by the affected communities to the building of Canada. We will give stakeholders and partners a voice in how federal initiatives are developed under the national historical recognition program.

To ensure that the community historical recognition program and the national historical recognition program achieve their goals, we will make an investment of $34 million over four years in these programs.

Recognizing historical experiences and raising awareness through these initiatives will help to strengthen the sense of inclusion of all communities in Canada and will help ensure that similar practices do not recur. It will help to turn the page on the Komagata Maru incident.

Our government has recognized the Komagata Maru incident at the highest level. We have conducted consultations with the Indo Canadian community on the best way to respond to this tragic episode in our history. We have established programs to recognize past injustices and to educate Canadians, particularly those who are too young to remember the wrongs committed by those in authority dozens of years ago, and in this case, decades ago.

Our government has shown true leadership on the file. We will continue to work with the Indo Canadian community to ensure that this incident is not forgotten and that incidents like this never occur again in Canada.

Komagata Maru Incident
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to say that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of motion M-469 from the member for Brampton—Springdale. This motion calls on the government to officially apologize to the Indo-Canadian community and to the individuals impacted in the 1914 Komagata Maru incident.

As we all know, in 1908, Canada passed a law that seriously restricted immigration from certain parts of the world. The Canadian government at the time ordered that immigrants who did not come to Canada by continuous journey—meaning that they did not come directly to Canada from their country of origin—were prohibited from immigrating to Canada. At the time, the law also prohibited Asian immigrants from entering Canada unless they were carrying at least $200. The government took it upon itself to limit immigration from oriental countries. These terrible conditions were what led to the Komagata Maru incident, a sad example of the discrimination against Asian immigrants at that time.

In May 1914, the passenger ship Komagata Maru arrived in Canadian waters off British Columbia. It was carrying about 376 migrants of Indian origin. Some were Sikh, some Hindu, some Muslim. The ship had not come directly from Hong Kong to Canada, but had stopped in Shanghai and Yokohama. Because it had not made a continuous journey, it violated the Immigration Act at the time, that famous edict by Canada. In fact, at the time, no shipping company made a direct journey, and that is what is so terrible.

Because 22 passengers on board the Komagata Maru were considered Canadian residents, they were allowed to land, but the remaining passengers were forced to stay on the ship for two months.

The Conservative government at the time cited legal reasons for prohibiting the remaining passengers on the Komagata Maru from entering Canada: they had not come directly from India by a continuous journey; they did not have the minimum of $200 required; they were subject to a recent immigration regulation that prohibited workers from entering at Pacific ports of entry.

But the government at the time did not deport them from Canada. A few weeks later, five judges of the Court of Appeal of British Columbia ruled unanimously that the immigration regulations were legal and valid and ordered the deportation that had been previously decreed. The Komagata Maru was escorted into international waters by a Canadian war ship. Near Calcutta, these people were told that they were going to be taken to the Punjab. The passengers did not want to go to the Punjab, and a riot ensued. Of the 29 people who were injured, 20 died.

In Canada, there are 750,000 people of Indian origin, including more than 34,000 in Quebec, the vast majority of whom—94%—live in the Montreal area. This event is important to the Canada's Indian community. Indo-Canadians believe that by making an official apology, Canada would right a historic wrong and would recognize this community's important contribution to Canada and Quebec. An official apology is the least Canada could do, and it would also be a way of saying that such incidents must never be allowed to happen again.

In August 2006, the Prime Minister gave a speech in which he confirmed that the Government of Canada acknowledged the Komagata Maru incident and programs were put in place enabling the Indian community to remember what happened and also to recognize its contribution to society.

Although the Prime Minister acknowledged the incident and programs were put in place, no official apology has been offered to members of the Indian community in Canada. It is not enough to offer symbolic apologies. This government is very good at making symbolic gestures but not at taking action.

We believe that the government could also consider other, more concrete means of acknowledging this incident. For example, it could finance a monument commemorating the incident. It could also establish a museum or historical display pertaining to the incident.

An apology must be given. The Bloc Québécois acknowledges what happened and will vote in favour of Motion M-469. There have been other incidents of this kind, and they must not be ignored. I will give two examples.

In 1918, under a Conservative government, Canadian soldiers opened fire on a crowd protesting conscription. Four people were killed and others injured. Furthermore, the people who were fired upon and died were innocent, and were not participating at all in the riot. We believe that the government has an obligation to provide appropriate compensation to the families of the victims. This has never been done.

Another example is the residential schools issue. Nearly 150,000 aboriginals went through hell in the residential schools. Some 87,000 of them are still alive. In 2006, the Bloc Québécois asked the Prime Minister to act on behalf of the Government of Canada and take the opportunity presented by the implementation of the residential schools agreement to offer a long-awaited apology to the victims. The government never did apologize.

In the spring of 2007, the House apologized to residential school survivors for the trauma they experienced because of policies to assimilate first nations, Inuit and Métis children. As a result of those policies, aboriginal culture, heritage and languages were lost, and the victims were left to deal with the tragic after-effects of the sexual, physical and emotional abuse they were subjected to in the residential schools.

Last year, on May 1, the House of Commons agreed to apologize to Canadian aboriginals for what happened to them in residential schools in the 20th century. To this day, the Prime Minister of Canada has refused to offer an official apology to the victims and their families who were abused in residential schools in Canada.

I see that my time is nearly up, so I just want to tell the hon. member that we support her motion. It is a noble and worthy motion. Official recognition of what happened does not cost much.

During the vote this afternoon, I could not believe that anyone would refuse to fly the flag at half-staff for soldiers who go to war. Folks have no problem going to Valcartier to tell the soldiers that they are a great bunch of people, and that it is a shame they have to go and fight, but those same folks do not want to lower the flag for them, for our Quebeckers. That is very upsetting.

In short, we are delighted that the member, the members of the Bloc Québécois, and other members of Parliament are willing to recognize the flagrant injustice suffered by the passengers of the Komagata Maru.

Komagata Maru Incident
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of Motion No. 469 and to inform the member for Brampton—Springdale that the entire NDP caucus will also be supporting this important motion.

The dark shadow of racism can be found in the story of the Komagata Maru, and one of the questions that was asked earlier was how often we should apologize. I will remind people here that when we deny or forget our past, we are bound to repeat it and that is one of my concerns.

It was originally under the government of Sir Wilfrid Laurier in 1909 that the concept of the continuous journey was introduced into Canadian immigration, and that is when the dark shadow of racism started creeping across the land.

The story we have been hearing is about this Japanese steamer that sailed from Hong Kong to Shanghai to Yokohama, Japan and then to Vancouver in 1914, carrying 376 passengers mostly from Punjab, India. Following that lengthy journey they were turned away and not allowed to enter Canada. This act of racism occurred under the Conservative government of Sir Robert Borden.

This was one of the most notorious incidents in the history of the early 20th century of the exclusion laws in Canada and the United States that were designed to keep out people of Asian origin.

Sadly, it was not the last of Canada's exclusionary practices. Members will recall the ship of the damned, the Jewish people who came to the shores of Canada, only to be turned away by a member of the government who said that one Jew was one Jew too many in this country.

In 1958 the Conservatives, under John Diefenbaker, moved to block the flow of Italian Canadians coming to Canada. The shadow of racism was still alive.

Of course today, buried in the latest budget bill, Bill C-50, the Conservative government is moving to control immigration. It will control not only who gets into Canada but more importantly who does not get in, who is excluded in this immigration package that is coming forth.

However, back to the story of this ship. Gurdit Singh, a well to do fisherman in Singapore, decided he wanted to force Canada to eliminate its exclusionary practices and exclusion law. He felt that by circumventing these laws, by hiring a boat to sail from Calcutta to Vancouver, he could help his compatriots whose journeys to Canada had been blocked.

During the first two decades of the 20th century, Canada passed several bills limiting the civil rights of Indians, including the right to vote, hold public office, serve on juries, or practice as pharmacists, lawyers or accountants.

However, because India, like Canada, was part of the British Empire, Canadian authorities did not pass the exclusion laws directly targeting those of Indian origin. The British authorities saw the Indian resentment when the white Australian policy was put into place in 1905. When Canada started to make its plans, the warnings came from London to take care and to understand the ramifications of building a nationalist fervour in India, so we acceded to what the British crown wanted at that time.

Clearly, Canadian immigration authorities had devised a devious way to indirectly halt Indian immigration to this country. This had been built around the continuous journey provisions that we heard about today. To be admitted into Canada, immigrants had to come by a continuous journey from their country of birth and enter with at least $200.

They knew that the ships coming from India would be stopping in Japan. That would not be a continuous journey, thus the ugly shadow of racism was hidden within the context of that continuous journey regulation. Because it did not mention race or nationality, to some it could even be argued it was fair because it applied to all immigrants.

This was certainly one of the many shadows of racism that passed over Canada over the last 100 years. It was very clear to all that the regulation was intended to apply only to Indians. At the time, the Canadian Pacific did run a very lucrative shipping line between Vancouver and Calcutta.

The Canadian government persuaded the company to stop this service. It then became impossible to come to Canada by a continuous journey. It was a mission accomplished. This of course was racist when it was used to enforce a white, Canada-only policy.

In chartering the Komagata Maru, Mr. Singh's goal was to challenge the continuous journey regulation. He believed that it would open the door for immigration from India to Canada.

Hong Kong became the point of departure. The ship was scheduled to leave in March, but Mr. Singh was arrested for selling tickets for an illegal voyage. He was later released on bail and given permission by the government of Hong Kong to set sail.

Many passengers joined the ship in Shanghai on April 8 and the ship arrived in Yokohama on April 14. It left Yokohama on May 3 with its full complement of 376 passengers and arrived in Vancouver on May 23 after several months at sea. This is a quote from the time:

This ship belongs to the whole of India, this is a symbol of the honour of India and if this was detained, there would be mutiny in the armies.

That was what one of the passengers told one of the British officers who greeted them in Vancouver.

Balwant Singh, the head priest of the Gurdwara in Vancouver, met the ship and became one of three delegates sent to London and India to represent the case of the Indians in Canada.

When the ship arrived in Canadian waters, it had not been allowed to dock. The Conservative premier of British Columbia, Richard McBride, gave a categorical statement that the passengers would not be allowed to disembark.

A shore committee was formed and protest meetings were held in Canada and the United States. At one, held in the Dominion Hall in Vancouver, it was resolved that if the passengers were not allowed to get off, Indo-Canadians would follow them back to India. The implications would be that there would be a rebellion if that were to occur.

The shore committee raised over $22,000. One can imagine that amount of money in that era as an installment for chartering such a ship. It also launched a test case to test the legality in the name of Munshi Singh, one of the passengers.

On July 7, the full bench of the Supreme Court of Canada gave a unanimous judgment, and we have heard that in the House from the Conservative speaker earlier, that under the new orders in council it had no authority to interfere with the decisions of the department of immigration and colonization.

The Japanese captain then was relieved of his duty by the angry passengers, but the Canadian government ordered a tug, the Sea Lion, to push the ship out to sea. On July 19, the angry passengers fought back with the only weapons they had. They were not armed. The quote from the The Sun in Vancouver read:

Howling masses of Hindus showered policemen with lumps of coal and was like standing underneath a coal chute.

The government also mobilized the HMCS Rainbow, a former Royal Navy ship under the command of Commander Hose, with troops from the Royal Irish Fusiliers, 72nd Highlanders. In the end, only 24 passengers were admitted to Canada since the ship had violated the exclusion laws and the remaining passengers did not have the required $200 funds. As we know, that was an exorbitant amount of money in that day.

The ship turned around and departed for Asia. When it arrived in Asia, in Calcutta, on September 26, it was met by a British gunboat and as we heard before, it was diverted to Budge Budge, where the British intended to put the group on a train to Punjab. The passengers did not wish to go and when they proceeded to explain that, a riot broke out, and some 20 people were killed.

Today, the lessons from this dark period of racism seem to be lost on the current government. Its move to control immigration, as embedded in Bill C-50, I feel, has the same hidden exclusion as at the turn of the century.

We hear the Liberals assail this bill as being discriminatory and having the hidden agenda of exclusion, but will they defeat it? We hear the rhetoric. We will wait to see the vote and once and for all who stands up for new Canadians and their families in this country.

As for Motion No. 469, members of my party and I are proud to stand in support of this motion, as we will stand and oppose Bill C-50 when it comes before us.

Komagata Maru Incident
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Sukh Dhaliwal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to congratulate the hon. member for Brampton—Springdale for proposing this motion which is long overdue.

I have listened very carefully to my colleagues on the Conservative benches and also the NDP and Bloc. The consensus seems to be that the government is not willing to support the motion.

As other speakers have mentioned and told the story about this incident, it is a black mark in Canadian history. When I look at the early 1900s, Canadian immigration officials began making provisions to block immigration from United India, which is now India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, three different countries. They were advised by London to be cautious in their approach because both Canada and India were part of the British Empire and rights of all subjects of the Empire needed to be respected.

Canadian officials nevertheless relied on immigration regulations that had the effect of excluding many prospective Indian immigrants. To be admitted to Canada immigrants were required to come by a continuous journey from their country of birth and each enter with at least $200 cash.

The continuous journey regulation did not mention race or nationality and on the surface seemed fair and applicable to all immigrants. However, it was an open secret that the regulation was intended to be applied primarily to the people from British India.

Other members have mentioned the history. I am not going to go into the history, but I will mention that the Conservative Prime Minister was in Surrey, in my riding on August 6, 2006, where he made a commitment. I will quote what the Prime Minister said at that time:

--the government of Canada acknowledges the Komagata Maru incident and we will soon undertake consultations with the Indo-Canadian community on how best to recognize this sad moment in our history.

In fact, it has been a long two years during which the government has done nothing. Now I see that it is going to oppose the motion. I personally feel that we are hurting the work done by many members of the House, and also many members from the community as mentioned by the member for Brampton—Springdale, people from Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation, people like Sahib Thind and his associates who have worked on this for 10 continuous years.

In fact, they prepared a petition asking for an apology that was filed in the House by one of the Conservative members. All they are looking for is a simple apology from the House. They are not looking for any compensation.

It is the right thing for the government to apologize at this point in time and make all Canadians proud that we care about all communities and that we treat every community equally.

When I look at the ACE agreement that the Liberals introduced in 2005, it was to acknowledge, commemorate and educate about the past injustices done to all communities in one agreement. We cannot cherry pick between one community or the other.

When the current government came in, it cancelled all the funds the Liberals had put in place. The record shows that.

With the immigration bill, Bill C-50, that is what it is doing as well. It is hiding those sweeping immigration changes. The government is trying to go around this and not come up clean.

I would request all members of the House to support the motion of the member for Brampton—Springdale and vote in favour of its passage.