The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) commends Prime Minister Harper for participating in ‘Gadri Babeyan Da Mela’ in Surrey, BC for the second time in the past three years. His attendance at the annual festival this past Sunday, August 2, is a worthy recognition of the leadership and active participation displayed by Canadian Sikhs’ in the fight for Indian independence during the early 20th century. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister’s decision to choose this venue to deliver a half hearted apology for the Komogata Maru incident to a crowd of thousands of festival goers has incised the Sikh community. “The political advisors to the Prime Minister miscalculated and underestimated the Sikh community’s sentiments,” said Gurpreet Singh Bal, WSO Canada President.
A motion passed by Canada’s House of Commons earlier in the year fuelled the Sikh community’s hopes that a fitting formal apology would be forthcoming, consistent with other similar corrective and restorative steps taken by the Canadian government. The fact that the decisions that lead to the ugly incident of 1914 were made in the House of Commons made it seem fitting that the appropriate redress should be made in this same august body of the government. However, rather than tendering the apology in a dignified manner in Parliament, in the presence of Canada’s elected representatives, the Prime Minister decided to deliver the apology at a festival. This is certainly not the Canadian way of offering an apology, nor would one like to see it become one.
Canada’s enviable national policy of Multiculturalism is based on the fundamental human principle of respecting – not decimating, Canadians’ culture, heritage, ethnicity, religion, geographical or racial background. “These Sikh athletes are highlighting Canada’s societal values in an impressive, colourful, meaningful and effective manner, that ALL Canadians should be proud of said,” Gurpreet Singh Bal, President WSO Canada.
“The casual and cavalier manner adopted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, reflects his government’s casual approach in dealing with a very serious matter, in which hundreds of Sikhs seeking a better life in Canada were turned away to face bullets and incarceration by the British rulers. Instead of soothing and closing the issue, it had the effect of reopening century old wounds,” said Ajit Singh Sahota, WSO Director of Administration.
The hurt inflicted by the actions of the Prime Minister was compounded by the statements of Secretary of State Jason Kenney and his director of communications, Alykhan Velshi. They completely dismissed criticism of the apology as being politically motivated and declared that there would be no further apologies. One is reminded of G.K. Chesterton’s saying, “A stiff apology is a second insult.... The injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt.”
Canadian Sikhs believed that the apology promised by the government would be sincere and genuine. Unfortunately, last week’s event has left an impression of being a half hearted and insincere attempt by the Canadian government, and only serves to fuel doubts about whether this community will ever receive the necessary redress that it deserves.
The World Sikh Organization (WSO) is a non-profit international umbrella organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of the Sikh Diaspora, as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights for all individuals, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and social and economic status.
For more information, please contact:
Maj (retd.) Jasbeer Singh, Media Relations, Tel. 780-457-3333, Cell. 780-235-6000, Email: [email protected]
Amanpreet Singh Bal Tel. 905-567-1795, Cell 416-677-1528, Email: [email protected]