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House of Commons Hansard #127 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru IncidentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

moved:

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

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin.

Today I rise in support of the NDP motion calling on the government to officially apologize in the House of Commons to the descendants, the South Asian community and the individuals impacted by the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, in which passengers were prevented from landing in Canada.

Next week, May 23 will mark the 98th anniversary of the arrival of the Komagata Maru in Burrard Inlet, Vancouver. Today I am asking all members of this House to vote in support of this motion. The South Asian community should not have to wait a century for an official apology for this tragic event. The tragedy of the Komagata Maru marks a dark chapter in Canadian history. The South Asian community has waited far too long for a dignified apology in the House of Commons.

The journey of the Komagata Maru was one of tragedy. The passengers left their homes to make a new life in Canada, the land of opportunity. What they did not realize was that Canada was not the land of opportunity for all, but only for some. The tragedy was one of several incidents in the early 20th century involving exclusion laws that were put in place to keep out immigrants of South Asian origin. It was a well-known secret. The “continuous journey” was a racially motivated regulation, the same as the Chinese head tax that did immeasurable harm by keeping South Asians out of Canada. At the same time, Canada was accepting massive numbers of immigrants. In fact, 400,000 immigrants came to Canada in 1912 alone, a figure that remains unsurpassed to this day, almost all of them coming from Europe. The Komagata Maru carried 376 passengers. Of them, 340 were Sikhs, 24 were Muslims and 12 were Hindus. They were all at that time British subjects.

The passengers were prevented from disembarking while the ship remained in Burrard Inlet for two months. The men, women and children aboard the ship were denied basic necessities such as water and food. The conditions on the ship worsened on a daily basis and the people aboard the ship suffered greatly. Everyday Canadians, at great risk to themselves, took food to the ship during those two months. In the end, only 20 passengers were admitted to Canada since the ship had violated the discriminatory exclusion laws. The ship was turned around and sent back on July 23, 1914. After its arrival in Calcutta, now Kolkata, on September 27, 1914, police fired on the passengers and 19 were shot dead. The rest were imprisoned or kept under village arrest.

I am an immigrant. I came to Canada 32 years ago to have a better life here. I came here with the same hopes as the people who were on board the Komagata Maru, and I have had incredible opportunities. Being elected to this House to represent my community of Surrey has been the greatest honour and opportunity of a lifetime for me. What if I had endeavoured to make that journey to Canada in the first half of the last century? I too would probably have been turned away. I would have been like those passengers on the Komagata Maru. These policies were racially prejudiced and they were wrong. My community and the whole of the South Asian community deserve a dignified, formal apology in this House for this tragedy.

I have spoken to many Canadians across this great country of ours on this issue. For 17 years I have been fighting for justice for the Komagata Maru incident, along with my good friend and colleague Sahib Thind, who is the president of the Professor Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation of Canada.

In 2006, we urged the Prime Minister to make an apology in the House of Commons. I was on the stage with the in Surrey in 20Prime Minister08. We were expecting the Prime Minister to announce the date of an official apology in the House of Commons. However, a few days before the event we learned that the Prime Minister would be apologizing from the festival stage. We advised the Prime Minister's office that this would be inappropriate and that the community would see this kind of apology as disrespectful.

The Prime Minister's statement in the park was immediately rejected by thousands at the event and those who heard about it. Many felt disappointed and insulted. The current Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism said at that time that the apology had been given and it would not be repeated. This added insult to injury.

The minister went on to say that the turning away of the Komagata Maru was different from other incidents, such as the Chinese head tax. The Komagata Maru tragedy, like the Chinese head tax, was an injustice that happened due to racially prejudiced Canadian immigration laws that were designed to exclude Asian people from the largest wave of immigration Canada had ever experienced. The Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism dismisses the Komagata Maru tragedy as one incident and refuses to acknowledge the continuous journey policy that was in place for 39 years. The Komagata Maru tragedy is a symbol of these policies that were in place to prevent people of South Asian origin from immigrating to this country. Again, I want to emphasize that these policies were in place from 1908 until 1947. That makes it 39 years that the exclusion policies were in place.

Even now, there is no transcript or written record of the statement the Prime Minister gave in the park and the Prime Minister's office refuses to provide one. How can the Conservatives think this is acceptable? Without an apology in Parliament, there is no official record of what the government has done. That is unacceptable. South Asian Canadians deserve to have a respectful acknowledgement of this historic wrong. By refusing to formally apologize for the Komagata Maru incident, the Conservatives have essentially created two levels for apologies for historic wrongs. That is unacceptable.

We support the steps taken by governments over the years to offer respectful and dignified apologies, such as the apology for Canadian Japanese internment camps and the apology to Chinese Canadians for the head tax. In apologizing for the Chinese head tax, the Prime Minister stressed that it was a “grave injustice that we are morally obliged to acknowledge”. The Komagata Maru incident highlights the grave injustices that occurred against people coming from South Asia.

Recently, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism was out in my community celebrating the contributions by South Asians to Canada and its economy. Photo ops do not cut it and homilies do not cut it. An official and dignified apology is what is required. I urge the Prime Minister to reconsider and make a dignified apology in the House. An announcement in the park is not an apology. My generation and the next generation of South Asian Canadians are waiting for a wrong to be made right. The suffering and loss of lives cannot be set right, but a formal apology is part of the healing process.

In pursuit of a better life, Komagata Maru passengers risked everything. When they arrived on our shores, our government, in ultimate cruelty, turned them away because they were not the right colour or religion. New Democrats are respectfully requesting, in the strongest possibly way, that the Prime Minister officially provide closure for the trauma this has caused in the South Asian community. Let the Prime Minister finally apologize in a dignified way in the House so that the process of healing and reconciliation can begin.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru IncidentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I understand it, despite the story of that unfortunate crossing, racist laws were still in effect after 1914. If I am not mistaken, they persisted in Canada until 1947, after the Second World War.

Can my distinguished colleague give us some historical background about how those laws were repealed?

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru IncidentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that we live in more tolerant society today than in 1914. In 1914, these discriminatory laws were put in place to restrict people of South Asian origin from coming to Canada, even though at that time they were British subjects. Canada was under the Commonwealth, as were the South Asian countries that we are talking about here under British rule at that time.

It took 39 years to abolish these discriminatory laws. The South Asian community has been waiting for 98 years for an official, dignified apology in this House so the healing process can begin.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru IncidentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Surrey North for bringing this forward into this House. I know he feels very passionately about this and has worked on this file which is more than a file, it is a life's work for him, to have this apology. There are other people in the community who I have met, like our dear friend, Sahib, who has also worked very hard.

My question to my colleague is, what is it going to take for the Canadian government to bring closure to this black spot in our history that has not been addressed by any government, be it Liberal or Conservative?

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru IncidentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Newton—North Delta has done great work in our community over the years, and continues to do that work.

It has been 98 years. Over the last 17 years, I have been across this country, talking to many Canadians. I have talked to descendants groups and other activist groups involved in the community. I have talked to grandchildren of the passengers who were on board the Komagata Maru.

This is not about money. Nobody in the South Asian community wants any sort of money from this. It is about a respectful apology. Everywhere I went there was only one thing the community requested over the years. The community asked for a respectful way to close this very dark chapter in our history, and that is by officially apologizing, recognizing that incident in this House so the healing process can begin.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru IncidentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 18th, 2012 / 10:15 a.m.

Peterborough Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, as you would know, Canada does not have a perfect record when it comes to our tolerance and acceptance of cultures.

In fact, we made many mistakes as a young country. As a member of my father's family, I am a member of the Italian community, immigrants to this country who were here during a dark period. During the Second World War we interned Italian Canadians and other Canadians. These were not foreign citizens, they were Canadian citizens who were interned.

More than 20 years ago, then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney apologized. What was missing from the Italian community, as we had this debate just a couple of years ago, was not the apology. The apology was made, as it was in this case, by our Prime Minister. I am proud that our Prime Minister sought to do that. What was missing for some members of the Italian community was not the apology but the acceptance of that apology.

Canada has expressed its sorrow for what occurred. Why does the member feel that the acceptance has not been given?

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru IncidentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have talked to thousands of people throughout Canada about the Komagata Maru over the last 17 years.

A political announcement in a park is not an official apology. An apology is a dignified way of recognizing our past wrongs. Yes, we live in a more tolerant society today. The community wants, to put this dark chapter to rest, a dignified apology in the House, so we can begin the healing process and the reconciliation process. That is the voice of the South Asian community.

Again, I urge my Conservative colleagues to vote for this motion so that we can provide closure for the South Asian community.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru IncidentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, this story prompts us to honour our duty to remember. Remembrance is the only way for us to understand our past and prepare for our future. Remembrance helps us promote and protect law, democracy and justice. Our duty to remember calls on us to consider this dark chapter in our history, pass judgment on it, apologize openly and clearly, recognize our wrongdoing and invite those who were wronged to join us in building a better Canada.

Some historical background is important here because this event did not happen by chance. It happened against the backdrop of a specific society: Canada in 1914.

In 1914, Canada and India were both British colonies. We were all British citizens. Everyone held the same citizenship. At the time, that community was made up of barely 4,700 people, barely 1% of the population. It was a small community that got its start in 1897 when Indian soldiers arrived in Canada and decided to stay here and put down roots. The community was organized but very small.

At the time, anti-Asian xenophobia was pronounced in Canada, and the Indian community was not the only target. Xenophobia also cost the Japanese and Chinese communities dearly.

There was therefore a strong feeling of xenophobia toward these people who, let us remember, had the same citizenship as us. They were British citizens.

This xenophobia was not new. In 1907, the Vancouver Trades and Labour Council formed the Asiatic Exclusion League. It lobbied to curb what it called the yellow peril—Asian immigration. This council was even responsible for a race riot. On September 7, 1907, some people's businesses and assets were vandalized. Many people were injured. This type of incident is called a pogrom. On September 7, 1907, there was a pogrom in Canada.

At the time, the Laurier government established a commission of inquiry under the direction of the then deputy minister of labour, William Lyon Mackenzie King, the future Prime Minister. He came to a very sad conclusion: Indians were not made to live in Canada because they were accustomed to a tropical climate and had other customs that were vastly different from ours. We were far from inclusive.

This report led to a racist law and decrees. Decree 920 prohibited people who were not coming directly from the country in which they had citizenship from settling in Canada, and decree 926 required all Asian immigrants to have at least $200 in their possession.

In 1907, it was not common for people to have $200 in their pockets, particularly if they were from a country as poor as India was at that time. Exploitation, misery and famine were prevalent there. The most recent famines in India occurred only a few years ago.

This measure was accompanied by measures imposed on Indo-Canadians by the Government of British Columbia at the time. Indo-Canadians did not have the right to vote. It was decided that they did not have the right to vote in either provincial or federal elections. In addition, they were prohibited from working in professional occupations. They could not be lawyers, pharmacists or accountants.

In 1908, this desire not to have any members of the Indian community in the country even led the Canadian government to invite all members of the Indo-Canadian community to leave Canada and go to British Honduras. People knew full well that the living conditions in British Honduras were not particularly good. They declined the offer, and rightly so.

In 1913, there were some attempts to weaken this law.

The law was declared ultra vires, because the use of the term “Asian origin” could prevent a British colonist and his children born in India from coming to Canada. The government addressed this issue immediately by replacing “Asian origin” with “Asian race”. This was the first time that an exclusion was made based on race in Canada.

This was the context in which the Komagata Maru arrived at the Port of Vancouver on May 23, 1914. Canada had been informed of the vessel's impending arrival and had decided, by decree, to deny these people the right to enter Canada. Under the pretext that there was already an overabundance of unutilized labour—this was in 1914, right before the First World War, when all the men would be mobilized—a decision was made to prohibit the labourers, workers and artisans from getting off the boat, before they had even arrived.

Understandably, when artisans and labourers are prohibited from immigrating to Canada, they are left with few choices.

The 376 passengers arrived in despicable living conditions. As soon as they arrived, they were incarcerated in the very boat they arrived in. They were not allowed to land.

The premier of British Columbia at the time, Richard McBride, declared that British Columbia should remain white. He was crystal clear. People who were not white were not welcome. People who were not Christian were not welcome.

In terms of individual justice, this is a very sad story. The people were incarcerated on a boat without any judgment or decree. They were presumed guilty and incarcerated, no questions asked.

What was the Canadian government's approach to reviewing the immigration files? It essentially applied the law to a group. It selected a few individuals, judged them and applied the sentence to everyone. The migrants were not given individual hearings or individual trials. They were judged as a group, not on their individual merits, but those of another. Our country's most natural and most fundamental rules of law were trampled on.

In the end, Canada had to right this wrong. Failing to honour our most basic rights was unacceptable.

As a result of bad faith in the application of justice, only 24 of the 376 individuals were allowed entry into Canada. What a joke. The others were sent back to India where pent-up frustration led to a riot that caused 25 deaths.

This is a black mark on Canada's history. It must be made right because Canada is a democratic country. I am very proud to be a member of this Parliament and I invite all members to share my pride and to help right this wrong.

If we fail to right such wrongs, repeated errors will become systemic flaws. We will not fail in our duty. We will right past wrongs and build our future. We will remember our past shortcomings as we build a future in which we respect those who were not respected in the past.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru IncidentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, over the last 17 years, I have had a chance to talk to many Canadians, especially the descendants of the passengers from the Komagata Maru. The stories they have heard from their grandfathers and great-grandfathers still pains those descendants. They have repeatedly told me that they are looking for closure from the Canadian government to heal the wounds that are still open.

How can we put closure to this? What can the government do to provide closure for the families?

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru IncidentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canada has a black mark on its history, like all nations with a history.

Canada is a free, democratic and forward-looking country. Nevertheless, we must look into the eyes of the victims' descendants and give them an official apology, not as individuals, but as a community, as a people, as a country. It is vital that we apologize to these people; they are entitled to an apology. It does not cost a lot to apologize and it is an excellent way to defend democracy.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru IncidentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, back on April 2, 2008, a former member of Parliament, Ruby Dhalla, moved the following motion:

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.

That motion passed unanimously. The government has been very much aware of the incident and aware of the need to apologize.

Why does my colleague feel that the government has been so reluctant to give a formal apology inside the House on this issue?

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru IncidentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, we cannot rewrite history. But we can study it and make amends.

I am not really interested in who was responsible for what at the time this motion was moved. What I do want to know is what we are going to do today. And I believe that we can apologize. That is called being mature.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru IncidentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great attention to the speech from the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin.

I also heard the question from the hon. member from the Liberal Party. Suffice it to say that I found it quite peculiar coming from a member of the Liberal Party given the number of years that the Liberal Party governed Canada and never even visited the location. It was a serious matter that was never addressed by the Liberal Party. However, that is not what I wish to speak to at this moment.

I have a question for the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin this question. A short few years ago, the right hon. Prime Minister of Canada, the Prime Minister today, actually visited the community and personally apologized to the community. We understood at the time that it was very public. It was welcomed by the community and it got closure. Here it is being revisited again today.

Is this a political ploy? Why is the apology by the Prime Minister of Canada, which was made directly and personally to the descendants in British Columbia, not sufficient?

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru IncidentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, Stephen Harper's personal apology is a good thing. He apologized as an individual. However, we are not asking for an individual to make a personal apology, but for the leader of the country to speak on behalf of the nation and apologize on behalf of the people and the Government of Canada.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru IncidentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I would remind the member to refer to his colleagues by their title or the riding they represent.

Tabling of Government of Canada Apology for the Komagata Maru IncidentBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Edmonton—Sherwood Park Alberta

Conservative

Tim Uppal ConservativeMinister of State (Democratic Reform)

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the Prime Minister's apology on behalf of the Government of Canada for the Komagata Maru incident of 1914.

[Member spoke in Punjabi]

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Resumption of Debate on Opposition MotionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Edmonton—Sherwood Park Alberta

Conservative

Tim Uppal ConservativeMinister of State (Democratic Reform)

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the many actions our Conservative government has taken in regard to acknowledging, commemorating and educating Canadians about the Komagata Maru tragedy of 1914.

South Asian Canadians have contributed a great deal to our beautiful country. We have worked hard to build Canada. Things have not always been fair for us. For decades, South Asian Canadians were discriminated against. At no point was this discrimination more obvious than the very disgusting racist continuous journey policies of the early 1900s that led to the tragedy of the Komagata Maru.

I wonder if many of the travellers on the Komagata Maru ship imagined that one day their children or grandchildren would stand up as a proud Sikh to address the Canadian people from Canada's Parliament. In fact, it is easy to imagine that one of the passengers on the Komagata Maru would have a grandson about my age.

Today's motion asks for an apology for this tragic incident. I am very proud to remind the House that on August 3, 2008, almost four years ago, the Prime Minister already took the historic step of apologizing for the Komagata Maru incident on behalf of the Government of Canada.

[Member spoke in Punjabi]

Let me read exactly what the Prime Minister said on that historic day:

Good afternoon, Bonne après-midi, Sat Sri Akaal, Nameste, As-Salamu Alaykum. I'd like to begin today by thanking the president of the Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation, Sahib Thind, for inviting me once again to this spectacular showcase of Punjabi culture. The vibrant dance and musical traditions, exquisite art and timeless literature being celebrated here today are the fruits of a millennial old civilization whose influence spans the globe. Canada now shares this rich cultural legacy; it has become an integral part of our own cultural diversity. Today over one million Canadians are of South Asian descent. These hard working men and women passionately devoted to their families and communities are helping make our country even stronger for the generations yet to come, our country that afford opportunity to all, regardless of their background, our country that offers sanctuary to victims of violence and persecution, our country of freedom and democracy, of prosperity and peace, second to none in the world. As Canadians, we have before us, and before our children and grandchildren, a future of literally unlimited possibility. A lot of that promise stems from the confidence, the ideas and the energies brought here by successive waves of newcomers drawn to our shores by the promise of a new and better life. Canada is renowned the world over for its welcoming embrace of immigrants. But like all countries, our record isn't perfect. We haven't always lived up to our own ideals. One such failure, as has been mentioned, was the detention and turning away of the Komagata Maru in 1914, an event that caused much hardship for its passengers, 376 subjects of the British crown from Punjab, and which for many of them ended in terrible tragedy. Two years ago, I stood before you and made a commitment and [since] then we have acted on that.

This May the Government of Canada secured the passage of the unanimous motion in the House of Commons recognizing the Komagata Maru tragedy and apologizing to those who were directly affected. Today, on behalf of the Government of Canada, I am officially conveying as Prime Minister that apology. Now friends, many Canadians have worked long and hard to secure recognition for this historic event. I'd like to thank from this community, the Professor Mohan Singh Foundation, the Khalsa Diwan Society, the Komagata Maru Descendants Association, and Community Leader, Tarlok Sablok, for their persistent and passionate dedication to this issue over the years. I also wish to acknowledge my own colleagues...for the work they have done to help all Canadians come to terms with this sad chapter in our history. We cannot change the events of the past; we cannot undo the misdeeds committed against those long deceased. But we can bring Canadians together in the present to unite our country, and to set us on a course to accomplish greater things in the future....

That historic apology followed a previous speech the Prime Minister made in 2006 in which he stated that the Government of Canada acknowledged the Komagata Maru incident and announced the government's commitment to undertake consultations with the South Asian community on how best to recognize this sad moment in history. The apology delivered in 2008 was a direct result of these consultations.

It also followed a May 2008 motion by the government, which passed by unanimous consent in the House of Commons, recognizing the Komagata Maru tragedy and apologizing to those who were directly affected.

I believe that the apology was made by the Prime Minister with great respect. I know most people in the community appreciate that apology, agree with that apology, respect that apology, and feel we should move on.

Jack Uppal, who is no relation to me, is highly respected and one of the most recognized figures in Canada's South Asian community. This community leader and successful businessman came to Canada as an infant with his parents in 1926. They settled in British Columbia. Mr. Uppal was one of the first Sikh children to attend a Vancouver public school. He now owns a successful lumber company in South Vancouver.

Mr. Uppal is known for hiring new immigrants and supporting others looking to come to Canada. Mr. Uppal has received the B.C. Community Achievement Award. He was president of the Khalsa Diwan Society, where he helped new immigrant Sikhs to integrate into Canadian society. He helped to establish Ross Street Temple. He is a member of the Indo-Canadian advisory committee for the community historical recognition program.

In June of this year, Mr. Uppal is going to receive a much deserved honorary doctorate degree from Simon Fraser University at the spring convocation.

This is what Mr. Uppal had to say in response to the Prime Minister's historic apology:

“Under the leadership of this Prime Minister, this government apologized for the historic injustice of the Komagata Maru. That apology was given in my house, my backyard, the place where the incident took place. I accepted the apology; the matter of an apology is closed. For myself, I have accepted the apology.

“The Komagata Maru was a tragic incident in Canada's history, but this government has made remarkable efforts to right the wrong. From the Prime Minister's public apology, to the Minister of Immigration's establishment of the Komagata Maru Canadian historical recognition program, which has funded a significant number of educational projects, museums and memorials across the country, this government is to be commended for its approach to reconciling a dark stain in our history.”

There are countless others in the community that share Mr. Uppal's view.

The Komagata Maru incident took place almost 100 years ago now, and no government previously issued an apology. Our government and the Prime Minister are the first and only ones to make such a historic apology for this tragic event.

I want to refer to the response Mr. Uppal gave to the Prime Minister's apology, specifically the last point during which Mr. Uppal addressed the government's creation of and funding for the community historical recognition program, as this brings me to my next point.

In 2006, in direct response to calls for the Government of Canada to address historic wrongs involving immigration and wartime measures, our Conservative government created the community historical recognition program, otherwise known as CHRP. This program provides grants and contribution funding for community projects that are developed in partnership with various groups.

In May 2008, the immigration minister at the time, the secretary of state for multiculturalism and Canadian identity, announced that the Indo-Canadian community would be able to apply for up to $2.5 million in grants and contribution funding for projects that acknowledge, commemorate and educate current and future Canadians about the Komagata Maru incident.

I will list the projects related to the Komagata Maru incident that the NDP and Liberals voted against.

Our government has provided funding for the Komagata Maru incident online project. This funding has gone toward the creation of a comprehensive website about the Komagata Maru incident, including interactive tools and learning modules.

Our government has also provided funding for the creation of the first ever public museum dedicated to the Komagata Maru incident, which will be housed at the Khalsa Diwan Society in Vancouver.

We have helped fund the first ever public monument dedicated to the Komagata Maru incident in Vancouver's Harbour Green Park, the closest point to where the ship was anchored for two months.

We have funded several book projects on the Komagata Maru incident. One is an illustrated book that will include the societal, cultural, political and religious aspects of the story of the Komagata Maru. The text will be based on the transcript of the award-winning film, Continuous Journey. The second book project will include content that will be translated into Punjabi.

Our government has provided funding for a project which engages youth through creative writing and digital media on the history of the Komagata Maru incident and tragedy.

Unfortunately, time does not permit me to go through the several other projects our government has funded that acknowledge, commemorate and educate Canadians about this tragic event.

It is clear that our government has taken several steps in regard to the Komagata Maru incident. Unfortunately, we have not received the support of the NDP or the Liberals.

The South Asian community has contributed a great deal, both economically and culturally, to this great country.

The Prime Minister and our government have taken several historic steps to address the Komagata Maru incident through the Prime Minister's apology and the creation of the CHRP program among others.

I would remind this House that the Prime Minister took another historic step when he appointed the first ever turban-wearing Sikh to cabinet in Canada and in fact anywhere outside India. It is with great honour that I serve with the Prime Minister as part of a government that I truly believe continues to make our great country a better place for all Canadians.

Our Conservative government recognizes and appreciates the significant and important contributions of South Asian Canadians. Through our actions, our government has responded to the issues that are important to these communities across the country.

South Asian Canadians can count on our Conservative government to stand up for the values and issues that are important to them: family, hard work, culture, and respect, among others. We have shown through our actions that our government will not only listen, but also take action. We will continue to do so.

Resumption of Debate on Opposition MotionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the speech. There is a lot of misinformation contained in it.

I was at the 2006 and 2008 consultations that the member talked. Every single one of the members who spoke at those consultations unequivocally said they wanted an apology in the House of Commons, yet when the report came out, it was slammed by the entire community, the very organizations the member talked about.

I was at the stage when the Prime Minister made the political statement in the park. At the same time, the very organizations that the Prime Minister thanked rejected the apology right at the stage at the time when the Prime Minister could not even wait to hear the “thank you” note from the president of the organization. Every single one of those people present at the event, when the so-called apology was made, rejected it with their arms up.

I want to know from the member why the government is not apologizing in the House of Commons in order to have a dignified closure to this tragic event in our Canadian history. Why Is it refusing to do it in the House--

Resumption of Debate on Opposition MotionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. I am sure there are other members who wish to pose questions. The time is limited.

The hon. Minister of State.

Resumption of Debate on Opposition MotionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, it absolutely was a tragic event, a dark spot in our great Canadian history. That is why the Prime Minister did give an official apology in front of thousands of Punjabis and thousands of South Asians who had gathered at a cultural festival. The Prime Minister went there himself and delivered this official apology on behalf of the Government of Canada and on behalf of the people of Canada.

I am very proud of the fact this apology was given, not only because it was given in the area where the incident took place, where the ship was turned away, but also because it was in front of thousands of people, so that thousands of South Asians could share in that apology on behalf of the government instead of the apology being made here.

Resumption of Debate on Opposition MotionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party of Canada has recognized the Komagata Maru, a 1914 incident, for many years. We have called upon the government to apologize. In fact, the Prime Minister made reference to that when he made an apology out in British Columbia.

However, the party has gone further than that. We have indicated very clearly that the Prime Minister of Canada should stand inside the House of Commons and make that formal apology, because many members of the Indo-Canadian community would like to see the Prime Minister do just that.

My question for the member is this: why would the government not be sympathetic to having the Prime Minister of Canada stand in the House of Commons, as he did in British Columbia, and apologize on behalf of all members and, in fact, the Government of Canada for the--

Resumption of Debate on Opposition MotionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please.

The hon. Minister of State for Democratic Reform.

Resumption of Debate on Opposition MotionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Conservative Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I find it a little rich for a Liberal member to stand and ask for an apology. First, the apology has already been made, with a great deal of respect, in front of thousands of people. It is a little rich for the Liberal Party to even talk about this when for the 13 years it was government it had an opportunity, over two prime ministers, to make this apology, and it chose not to.

It was this government and this Prime Minister who, very respectfully, in front of thousands of people, officially apologized for the Komagata Maru incident. I am proud of the fact that I am part of the first government to apologize for this incident.

Resumption of Debate on Opposition MotionBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Parm Gill Conservative Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. minister for his very passionate speech. It was, indeed, a very tragic moment in our history.

The minister mentioned in his speech that the Prime Minister apologized for this tragedy about four years ago, in front of thousands Indo-Canadians, South Asians, in British Columbia, where this tragic incident actually took place. He also mentioned that there was funding made available for historic recognition programs and so on to remember this tragic moment in our history.

I would like to ask the hon. member why he believes the NDP has introduced this motion today, after four years. Maybe he can shed some light as to the motives behind the motion.