Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Apology Industry

There's a loud lament from the right side of Canadian politics against what is called the "Apology Industry" or the "Apology seeking industry". This is surmised to be some sort of legal establishment that funnels people in to lawsuits and PR campaigns for the purpose of taking money from the government for previous immoral actions of the government.

As examples, we have the payments that went out to the descendants of those who paid the "Chinese Head Tax" or to those who suffered under the "Indian residential schools".

The right wingers tell us to stop and they give this warning: "When does this all end? Do we apologize to everyone we've ever wronged?"

I hate to break it to you, but yes. Believe it or not, in spite of all of the rhetoric, you in fact have to apologize to everyone you've wronged. That's maturity. That's adulthood. That's responsibility.

It's not just about the money. Beating children to death or letting them die in the snow can not be healed by passing money to their parents or to some descendants or fellow band members. It's about changing policy.

If you publicly apologize to the people who paid the Head Tax, you implicitly publicly acknowledge that this was an immoral Tax and thus guarantee (one would hope) that future Canadian governments will avoid such idiocy.

When you apologize to the native Canadians whose children were taken from them, you are speaking to an immoral policy of assimilation that continues, in one form or another, to this day. Yes, the money can help those who have been mentally damaged by these schools, but the money is not the crux of the matter.

It's much more important that we recognize the brutality inspired by the arrogance that led previous governments to institute schools where children were beaten for refusing to pray to Jesus, speak English and start nodding their heads for "yes". The same governments who made those schools also made the rest of the policies towards our native population. Therefore we must suspect those policies of containing within them the same soul of arrogance and brutality.

And consequent to realizing how brutally we've been treating the native population, we must act to change that policy.

That, not money, is what these apologies are about.

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