150+ Canadians Day 50: Formal Apologies

Then Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Assembly of First Nations Chief Phil Fontaine on June 11th, 2008, the day the federal government formally apologized to First Nations for its role in the residential school system. Image Credit: TheProvince.com

Formal apologies recognize injustices caused by government actions, and help victims to heal.  #Canada150

We wanted to add this to the list because of how strongly we all felt that formal apologies, followed up by appropriate changes in behaviour, are absolutely crucial for healing, forgiveness, and true reconciliation to take place.

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized for Canada’s decision to turn away the ship Komagata Maru in 1914 which carried 376 Sikh migrants from British India because the ship did not make a “continuous journey”, admitting the goal was to keep Canada “white”.
  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a formal apology to the country’s Chinese community for the discriminatory “head tax” imposed on Chinese immigrants who came to Canada between 1885 and 1923. The tax started at $50 per person in 1885 and rose to $500 per person in 1903, equal to as much as two years’ salary. Again, the unstated goal was to keep Canada “white”.
  • Prime Minister Brian Mulroney apologized to Canadians of Japanese ancestry who were forcibly removed from their homes and interned in inhumane conditions during WW II because it was thought that they might be sympathetic to Canada’s enemy, Japan, and commit terrorist acts. Those interned had their property sold and the money raised was used to pay for their imprisonment. They were punished for their heritage.
  • Prime Minister Harper apologized to the country’s indigenous populations for the kidnapping of tens of thousands of indigenous children who were placed in boarding schools, removed from their parents and culture, punished for speaking their languages and very often physically and sexually assaulted. The goal was to assimilate them into the new emerging “Canadian” culture.
  • On May 30, 2016, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne apologized on behalf of the Government of Ontario for the brutalities committed for generations at residential schools and the continued harm this abuse has caused to Indigenous cultures, communities, families and individuals.

“From coast-to-coast-to-coast, the residential school system set out to ‘take the Indian out of the child,’ by removing indigenous children from their homes and systematically stripping them of their languages, cultures, laws and rights. Children were physically, emotionally and sexually abused. Many died…Thank you for finding the strength and courage to come forward and tell your stories — and the stories of those who were lost. In opening our eyes, you have given us this chance to move forward as partners and the opportunity to say we are sorry,”  – – Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne

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