(OTTAWA, May 18)
Today we bore witness to a historical event that has been long overdue. The Canadian people received a statement from the Canadian government recognizing the historical wrong that was done to the people of the Indian sub-continent.
A society that does not recognize and make amends for its mistakes is bound by destiny to repeat them over and over again.
The Komagata Maru incident, organized by the members of the Gadar party was a part of a secular movement for human and civil rights steeped in the dignity and respect of the common person. It was part of an international struggle against colonialism that had deep ties with diverse groups including the radical women's rights movement, the Chinese democratic movements, the struggles of the people's in the middle east, and Irish and Scottish peoples' amongst others.
We recognize that that struggle of the common person continues today with the struggles of the first nations people's in Canada, the plight of the common people in Syria, Palestine and Iraq and the situation we face with imminent environmental disaster.
For over 2 decades the Prof. Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation has worked to obtain an official House of Commons apology from a Canadian Government for the events related to the Komagata Maru incident.
When Prime Minister Trudeau visited our annual Festival in Bear Creek Park in Surrey BC on August 3 2014 - on the affair's 100th Anniversary - and promised a formal apology, we knew our work would finally be done.
After 102 long years, the story of these early South Asian pioneers will be enshrined in our national public record.
We would like to thank the Right Honourable Prime Minister for keeping his promise, and for making this date a historic one for all the generations of South Asian migrants to Canada. We would also like to thank all the people from around the world who made this possible. This is a victory for the South Asian Community, and for the people of Canada.
Professor Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation founder, Sahib Thind, discusses the organization, our events and projects, and the Komagata Maru apology recently announced by Rt. Hon. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Select 'CC' at bottom right of video to see English subtitles)
The Professor Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation of Canada is a non-partisan organization with a wide-ranging mandate. Promoting freedom and democracy, protecting human rights, bridging cultural diversity and building cultural harmony are central to the Foundation’s purposes. The values captured in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in other global and regional commitments are consistent with the values upon which the Professor Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation was founded. The Foundation supports those persons and community organizations who long to live in freedom and under democracy. The Foundation uses a wide range of tools to advance its goals, including cultural events such as the “Gadri Babian Da” Mela, community outreach activities and partnerships with local, provincial and federal governments, non- governmental organizations, and individual citizens who share similar goals.
The Prof. Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation is one of a very few organizations with the necessary credibility to play a bridge-building role in the South-Asian community.The Foundation is committed to an open society where mutual respect and understanding are honored, differences are respected and traditions are cherished. The Foundation advocates on behalf of all victims of the Komagata Maru tragedy, regardless of religion, race or ethnicity. Members of the Foundation include current and past members of Parliament, and Provincial and municipal leaders.
The Foundation holds the annual “Gadri Babiyan Da” Mela in Surrey, British Columbia every year. The Mela is in its 21st year, and is attended by folk singers, dancers, entertainers (from US, India and other parts of Canada) and local dignitaries and politicians. Hundreds of volunteers help the Foundation host the 'Mela' in Bear Creek Park in Surrey every August Long Weekend. This festival typically hosts 70,000+ guests every year, including Prime Ministers and Federal Cabinet Ministers, Bollywood and Punjabi entertainment superstars, and many foreign and local dignitaries.
The Mela is dedicated to the men and women of multiple cultures and faith groups who fought for democracy and human rights. This event reminds Canadians of our commitment to an open society where mutual respect and understanding are honored, differences are respected and traditions are cherished. The festivities taking place on this day provide our community with a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the rich heritage and traditions of Indian culture, contributing to cross cultural understanding and an appreciation of our multicultural population.
The Position of the Prof. Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation on the Komagata Maru Injustice
The tragedy of the Komagata Maru marks a dark chapter in Canadian history. The South-Asian-Canadian community is very hopeful that the Canadian Federal Government will provide closure for the tragedy. Our assessment through extensive feedback from the community is that the Government needs to initiate the following actions to enable the community to begin a healing process:
- The Federal Government needs to issue an outright apology in the Canadian Parliament
- A Living Memorial to create and maintain structures and practices that promotes acceptance, understanding and inclusion of all people regardless of race, religion, gender or color.
- An account of the Komagata Maru tragedy and South-Asian-Canadian history should become part of the school curriculum in BC and across Canada. The Federal Government can facilitate coordinating this with the Provinces (under whose jurisdiction Education falls).
The Foundation also advocates the recognition of Canadians, both South-Asian-Canadians and from the community at large, who played a very important and positive role during the 2 month-long ordeal for passengers of the Komagata Maru in Burrard Inlet. It should not be forgotten that many Canadians helped and provided moral support based upon human rights to passengers of Komagata Maru passengers.
On the basis of principles of human rights, freedom, fairness and equality, the Komagata Maru tragedy is a very sensitive issue for the South-Asian-Canadian community. This tragedy needs to be addressed urgently with input and support from South-Asian-Canadians. The Professor Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation of Canada is committed to resolving this matter by working with the Government of Canada and engaging the community.
The Professor Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation is a non-political, non-profit organization formed to preserve the memory of South Asian Canadian pioneers, while promoting the continued growth of an open, tolerant, and 'just society'.
Prof. Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation of Canada is committed to a society where mutual respect and understanding are honoured, differences are respected, and traditions are cherished. The Komagata Maru tragedy is a dark chapter in our Canadian history. The Prof. Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation has been lobbying for a respectful and honourable apology in the Canadian Parliament for over 20 years.
In 2002, Prof. Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation presented a petition to the Canadian Parliament signed by thousands of Canadians demanding an official acknowledgement and apology for this unfortunate incident on Canadian soil. The Komagata Maru Tragedy remains an open grievance of the community. The healing process for the community can only begin with a respectful and honorable apology in the Canadian Parliament.
The foundation holds 'Mela Gadri Babiya Da' at Bear Creek Park in Surrey, BC, the first weekend of August each year. This is the largest event of its kind outside of India, and routinely host between 60000 and 80000 attendees. The festival attracts premiere Punjabi performers, local and national politicians, and many different food and other festival kiosks.