Almost 102 years after Canada turned away over 376 migrants, mostly Sikhs from India, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has formally apologised in Parliament for the "great injustice" that happened due to discriminatory laws of the time.

Trudeau apologised in the House of Commons on Wednesday for 1914 decision by the then Canadian government to turn away 376 Indian migrants onboard the ship 'Komagata Maru' after their arrival in Vancouver.

He said that Canada's government was, without question, responsible for the laws that prevented these passengers from immigrating peacefully and securely. For that, and for every regrettable consequence that followed, we are sorry.


Komagata Maru sailed from Hong Kong to Vancouver harbour on May 23, 1914, carrying 376 passengers but most of the passengers were eventually turned away on the grounds of the "continuous journey clause" that allowed only travellers on a trip without interruption to land in Canada. 

Trudeau said that the then law effectively eliminated immigrants from India because there was no direct service to Canada. After two months in limbo in the harbour, the ship was escorted out of the harbour by the military.

It returned to India and on its arrival, at least 19 people were killed in a police assault by British soldiers, while others were jailed.

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper had earlier also apologized for the incident at a public event in British Columbia in 2008.