Shameful and racist: Trudeau on the Komagata Maru incident

Calling it racist and shameful, the prime minister issued a statement Monday on the anniversary of one of Canada's darker historical chapters.

Monday marks the 108th anniversary of the Komagata Maru incident, which led to the deaths of more than a dozen people.

The Komagata Maru was a steamship that brought 376 Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus of South Asian origin to Vancouver.

These people hoped to settle in Canada, but instead were turned away "due to the racist and discriminatory laws of the time," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

They were detained on the ship for months, and were denied access to food, water and health care. The case went through the court system, and the ship was turned back to India.

Once there, 19 people were killed and many others were imprisoned.

"Today and every day, what happened more than a century ago serves as a reminder to all Canadians of the importance of treating each other with dignity and respect, fighting racism and discrimination in all its forms, and promoting equity and inclusion. We will continue to learn from the mistakes of our past to ensure they never happen again," Trudeau's statement said.

British Columbia Premier John Horgan also released a written statement on the anniversary, describing the attitude the passengers were met with as "hostility, prejudice and injustice."

He said those on the ship were students, labourers and former soldiers who wished to contribute once settled in Canada.

Both levels of government have previously issued apologies for their roles, as has the City of Vancouver.

"There is more work to do. How far we have come is a testament to the incredible resiliency in our province, including those who stand up to injustice and try to make B.C. safer and more equitable for everyone," Horgan said.