Toronto, Aug.4 : Sikhs based in the British Columbian town of Surrey have rejected Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper apology Sunday for the 1914 Komagata Maru incident in which hundreds of Indians seeking a better life in Canada were turned away.
Harper's address to a crowd of about 8,000 people, a majority of whom were East Indians, was greeted with anger and jeers. As soon as he left the stage, several Sikhs rushed to the podium to denounce the apology.
According to the Globe and Mail, they demanded that the apology be made on the floor of the House of Commons.
"The apology was unacceptable," said Jaswinder Singh Toor, president of The Descendents of Komagatamaru Society.
"We were expecting the Prime Minister of Canada to do the right thing. The right thing was ... like the Chinese head tax," said Toor, referring to Harper's full apology to the Chinese-Canadian community in 2006 for the head tax imposed on Chinese immigrants who came to Canada between 1885 and 1923.
The Komagata Maru sailed into Vancouver harbour May 23, 1914, with 376 people on board. The dominion government would not allow the passengers to disembark and the vessel sat in the harbour for two months.
Eventually, the boat steamed back to Calcutta where it was met by police, and 20 people were killed as they disembarked while others were jailed.
Many of those aboard the Komagata Maru were Sikhs.
"The apology has been given and it won't be repeated," said Secretary of State Jason Keney, who was accompanying Harper during the visit.
The apology marks the third such reconciliation Harper has made with embarrassing parts of Canada's past.
On June 11, Mr. Harper apologized to aboriginals who suffered abuse decades ago at Canadian residential schools, calling it "an important evolution in Canada's relationship with our first peoples."
And, in 2006, Mr. Harper issued a full apology to the Chinese-Canadian community for the head tax imposed on Chinese immigrants who came to Canada between 1885 and 1923.