Toor Brothers Elated That PM Justin Trudeau Finally Offered Official Apology For Komagata Maru Tragedy

komagata-Toor

Government Of Canada Will Officially Apologize For The Historic Wrongdoing On May 18 In Parliament!

komagata-Toorkomagata_stamp“Our Prime Minister is a great man and a man of his word,” Raj Toor told DESIBUZZbc. “He made a promise that if he were to form the government, there would be an official apology in the House of Commons similar to the ones given to the Chinese and Japanese community for the horrors done to them. And we are so happy as family members of those who suffered during the tragedy that their struggles and sacrifices will be recognized on May 18.”

DESIBUZZbc (1)-RedSURREY – When PM Justin Trudeau finally announced that the government of Canada will be officially offering an apology for the Komagata Maru tragedy, brothers Raj and Jaswinder Toor, official spokespersons for the Descendants of Komagata Maru Society, knew that Trudeau had kept the promise he made to them on the sidelines of an annual community event where he had come to greet the community at a time when he was just an MP and the leader of the Liberal party.

“Our Prime Minister is a great man and a man of his word,” Raj Toor told DESIBUZZbc. “He made a promise that if he were to form the government, there would be an official apology in the House of Commons similar to the ones given to the Chinese and Japanese community for the horrors done to them. And we are so happy as family members of those who suffered during the tragedy that their struggles and sacrifices will be recognized on May 18.”

The Toor brothers along with other families of the Komagata Maru passengers are eagerly awaiting their official invitations to attend the ceremony in Ottawa and the honour it will bestow on their ancestors.

komagata-calendarRaj Toor says the families never asked for money or compensation as they just wanted the apology which the former Conservative government refused to give, saying some sideline community event announcement by PM Stephen Harper was enough as an apology, enraging the community and many family members of the passengers.

The apology will take place May 18 in a more formal setting than Bear Creek Park, where former Harper offered a similar apology in 2008.

“We are very proud that the prime minister has kept his promise,” said Jaswinder Toor, who came to Canada more than 40 years ago.

The incident is a dark chapter in Canadian history.

komagata_shipIn 1914, the ship Komagata Maru, carrying 376 Indian immigrants – mostly Sikh and all British subjects – was turned away from Vancouver and sent back to India.

Local officials cited the Continuous Passage Regulation, which stated that all immigrants must come directly from their country of origin.

Due to the great distance between India and Canada, this was impossible, as ships required a stopover. The Komagata Maru had stopped in Hong Kong.

The voyage home meant the exiled passengers had been confined to the ship for six months. As they became increasingly agitated, they were hit by British gunfire when they returned to India. Twenty were killed, and scores were wounded.

Toor’s grandfather, Puran Singh Janetpura, was 24 years old at the time and one of the passengers on the ship. He survived, reported Surrey Leader newspaper.

Nearly 50 years later, although he was offered a chance by his family to join them in Canada from his native Punjab, he refused to come. He was still bitter about the incident.

“They were not illegal immigrants,” Toor told the Leader.

Toor said in the last few months, several emails were exchanged with the Office of the Prime Minster about the details of the apology.

“Everything is covered… there is no stone left unturned,” he said, adding he was asked to keep the news to himself that the apology would in fact soon take place. Ottawa needed a few more months to hammer out the details.

Toor brothers said they are thrilled with the news and thankful for the help in keeping the story alive.

“All of my Canadian brothers and sisters supported us.”

komagata_banner-enTOORS’ GRANDFATHER REFUSED TO COME TO CANADA!

Jaswinder and Raj Singh Toor’s grandfather Puran Singh Janetpur, who was on the ill-fated ship, was still alive when the Toors immigrated to Canada in the 1970s but he refused to come as he still felt bitter by the original experience.

Puran Singh Janetpur was just 24 in 1914 and had excelled at school, convincing his family to let him leave Ludhiana to do postgraduate studies at UBC.

He never enrolled. He boarded the Komagata Maru, bound for Vancouver, one of two students of 376 passengers, mostly Sikhs, reported the Province newspaper.

They were wrong. Puran Singh’s journey ended in the harbour. The ship languished in port for two months while rations dwindled. Supporters fought in court to have them admitted, but the ship was turned back.

When it docked near Calcutta, a riot ensued. The British shot and killed 19 men. Toor’s grandfather was imprisoned for years and lost his land. When he was released, authorities confined him to his village. He joined the freedom movement in protest.

“He lost almost everything that he had, but the one thing he had left was his education,” said Toor, president of The Descendants of Komagata Maru Society.

Brand-D-LogoToor’s family eventually came to Canada. Toor arrived 1976 and now lives in Surrey.

His grandfather often talked about how beautiful Vancouver looked from the harbour. But even after immigration loosened, his memories of B.C. were too bitter. Despite pleas from relatives, Janetpur never returned.Toor’s children each attended UBC, the university their grandfather was never able to set foot in, reported Province newspaper.

A dozen families who trace their ancestors back to the ship’s manifest have been lobbying for a more respectful apology delivered in Parliament. While they wait, the Society focuses on education.“As my grandfather said, the more education you give to society, the less discrimination there will be.”

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