Rona Ambrose, the Leader of the Official Opposition, welcomes apology in the House of Commons for the Komagata Maru incident

Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose is applauded by her caucus while speaking during a debate on the Speech from the Throne in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, December 7, 2015. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Rona Ambrose, Interim Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and Leader of the Official Opposition, issued the following statement commemorating the Komagata Maru incident:

 “While Canada is renowned for being warm and welcoming toward new Canadians, unfortunately, our past record isn’t perfect.  This is evident through the detention and turning away of the Komagata Maru in 1914.  It was an event that caused terrible hardship for its passengers. When the vessel arrived in Vancouver on May 23, 1914, most of the nearly 400 passengers aboard were immigrants from Punjab. They were Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims, and all British subjects, just like Canadians at the time. For many, it was an event that ended in tragedy.

 “Today is a historic day for Canadians, as we recognize the Komagata Maru incident in the House of Commons with an apology. It is important that Canada acknowledges our wrongdoings of the past, as we have always stood up for social injustices at home and abroad.

 “Leading up to this important day, the previous Conservative Government took a number of steps to address the terrible tragedy of the Komagata Maru.  In 2008, the Government of Canada first officially recognized this tragedy when Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized for the Komagata Maru incident in Vancouver. In addition, the Government created the Community Historical Recognition Program (CHRP), through which it was announced the Indo-Canadian community would be able to apply for over $2 million in grants for projects that acknowledge, commemorate, and educate current and future Canadians about Komagata Maru.

 “The previous Conservative Government also funded the first ever public museum dedicated to the tragedy housed at the Khalsa Diwan Society in Vancouver, as well as the first ever public monument in Vancouver’s Harbour Green Park.  And on the 100th anniversary in 2014, Canada Post released a special stamp to further create awareness.

 “Today, over one million Canadians are of South Asian descent.  These hard-working men and women are passionately devoted to their families and communities, and are helping make our country even stronger.

 “Conservatives continue to recognize and appreciate the significant and important contributions of South Asian Canadians.  We cannot change the events of the past, but we can continue to recognize the passion and hard work of this community as we all work toward a better future.