Apologies: Remembering the past to serve the future

Posted by admin on May 28th, 2008

Gurpreet Singh for South Asian Post

While the B.C. government apologized last week for the Komagata Maru episode, the federal Conservative government is expected to make a similar apology in the near future. The ship carrying 376 passengers, mostly Punjabis, was turned away from the Vancouver coastline in 1914 under the discriminatory continuous journey law that was passed to discourage Indian immigrants from entering Canada.

The B.C. government formally apologized for the episode on May 23, the same date that the steam liner arrived 94 years ago, only to be turned back after two months moored in English Bay.

This has given the community activists some sense of victory, as they were spearheading the campaign for an apology. Some of them were invited to the legislature to witness the historical moment.

However, not only are governments required to learn from their past mistakes, but self-appointed community activists must also learn from the history of the Indo-Canadian struggle.

It would appear some of these groups are overly happy at making the Canadian establishment concede its past mistakes through this symbolic victory, while at the same time turning their backs on present-day discriminatory laws and measures.

These groups are hardly represented at the rallies currently being organized against the new “anti-immigration” laws contained in the controversial federal Bill C-50.

Some who had vowed to block the entry of Immigration Minister Diane Finley in Surrey  last week did not show up at the rally, which ultimately did force her to cancel a press conference with the assembled ethnic media.

Some of them even skipped rallies that were held to oppose the deportation of paralyzed failed refugee claimant, Laiber Singh. Such groups are more interested in the recognition and attention of the Canadian government for more self-serving purposes. Their politics are not as radical as those of the pioneers who struggled for the right to vote and for family reunion legislation in the past.

They must show courage and follow in the footsteps of the people who challenged the authorities when the Komagata Maru passengers were not allowed to step on Canadian soil. The rights that immigrants and visible minorities are enjoying today were never served to them on platter.

Just because Indo-Canadians have their representatives in parliament and the legislature, this does not mean their rights can be guaranteed forever.

Any social or political change does not come through government, but through the will of the people within a civil society.

Instead of pleasing their political masters by serving them samosas, so-called community activists should be raising their voices against present day injustices.

Comments are closed.