Ottawa promises apology for Komagata Maru incident
After more than nine decades, the federal government is set to apologize for preventing a shipload of would-be Indian immigrants from landing in Vancouver.
In Surrey on Saturday, Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity Jason Kenney said Ottawa would provide $2.5 million in grants to commemorate the two-month standoff with the Komagata Maru. An apology could be read in Parliament this week.
In 1914, the Japanese charter ship Komagata Maru arrived in Vancouver harbour with 376 migrants from India. Immigration officials refused to let the passengers disembark, using the continuous journey regulation which required migrants to arrive in Canada directly from their country of origin.
The ship was forced to anchor in the harbour where it stayed for two months before finally returning to Calcutta, all the would-be immigrants still aboard.
Superficially this appears to be another story of racism and discrimination but if we look at the historical context surrounding this event we can reasonably conclude that the government at the time did the right thing.
In order to understand why those aboard the Komagara Maru were not allowed to land we must first investigate as to why the Chinese Head Tax and Chinese Exclusion Laws were enacted. You can read about it here, here, here, and here. Simply put, these laws were enacted to protect west coast labourers from the negative effects Asian immigration was having on their livelihoods; a frustrating situation that was at the root of the 1907 Vancouver Asiatic Riot.
The arrival of the Komogata Maru off the coast of British Columbia in 1914 found itself in the wake of these earlier events. It is reasonable to assume that successive waves of Indian immigrants would have followed if the Canadian government allowed those aboard the Komogata Maru to land and take up residency. This would have flooded the B.C. economy with cheap excess labour, the kind of excess Chinese and Japanese immigration was producing with the attendant negative effects on the wages of Canadians living in the province. The Canadian government's priorities rest squarely with the welfare of its citizens and if Asian immigration to British Columbia was adversely affecting the living standards of Canadians in that province then the government did the right thing by refusing the illegal immigrants aboard the Komogata Maru the right to land. Read more about it here.
The main problem with the apology is it implies that what the government did at the time was wrong. Taken in its historical context the government acted and did what was best for those Canadians who would be negatively affected by their landing. Denying the landing of the passengers of the Komogata Maru, and thus controlling immigration, was the right thing to do and the apology is therefore unwarranted.
The apology also restricts the government's options by causing it to second guess its acts at controlling our boarders when similar incidents arise. How can the government act to control the flow of illegal immigration when it has officially admitted that it acted wrongly in the past?
The apology also suggests that protecting the livelihoods of Canadians is not a legitimate reason to restrict and contain immigration. That is wrong.
But if we read the CBC piece further we realize that this apology is insincere.
On Friday the federal government also offered $10 million to the Ukrainian-Canadian Foundation to support initiatives marking the First World War internment of Ukrainians and people from other eastern European ethnic communities in Canada.
Also, on May 13 the government moved to recognize the Ukrainian famine as a genocide. You can read about it here at CTV News.
The federal government on Thursday offered $5 million to the Chinese-Canadian community in grants for commemorative and educational projects related to immigration restrictions.
Again a wrong move because they will only present a one sided story filtered through a Chinese Canadian lens. In other words you will not get the whole truth. See the links concerned with the Chinese Head Tax and Chinese Exclusion Laws above for more.
So on May 8 the government doled out "$5 million to the Chinese-Canadian community in grants for commemorative and educational projects related to immigration restrictions." Then, the next day on May 9 they doled out "$10 million to the Ukrainian-Canadian Foundation to support initiatives marking the First World War internment of Ukrainians and people from other eastern European ethnic communities in Canada." Then on May 12 Ottawa promises an unwarranted apology to the Indo-Canadian community for the Komogata Maru "incident" while doling out "$2.5 million in grants to commemorate the two-month standoff with the Komagata Maru." Then on May 13 the Conservatives act "to recognize Ukrainian famine as a genocide." This is clear cut ethnic vote pandering and that's why the apology is insincere. Just throw the seals some fish and watch them clap.
The Harper Conservatives are a minority government angling for ethnic block votes to win a future majority. So, they are apologizing for Indo-Canadian votes. That's it! There is no other reason. It's for votes and of course we Canadians pay for them out of our pockets with tax dollars doled out here and there for some grievance or another and it seems Canadians are getting fed up with it. Read the comments that follow the CBC article and you'll see what I mean. They are quite revealing.
No apology is necessary. The government did the right thing given the circumstances and acted with the interests of Canadians in mind. The Canadian government owed nothing to those aboard the Komogata Maru who were not Canadian citizens and were challenging Canadian immigration laws with their illegal act. The government of today should be taking notes, not giving hallow apologies.