Monday, June 09, 2008

Harper Apologizes to the Natives

The Conservative government perplexes me. In amongst all the obvious pro-business, pro-wealthy tax cuts, the military expansion, their involvement in the torturing of prisoners and their secret assistance to the invasion of Iraq - they go off and apologize to native Canadians for their mistreatment at the hands of the government's residential schools.

It's a well deserved apology. These people were horribly mistreated. The basic crime is attempting to destroy someone's culture. We're not talking about the "culture" that Jeffrey Simpson and that lot are worried about (wherein, apparently, all Muslims want to come to our country and change our constitution in to sharia law). We're talking about speaking your own language, signaling yes and no the way you were raised to do so, eating your own food and following your own religion.

Yes, that was bad enough. But on top of that we've got to deal with the rampant sexual and physical abuse at these schools. It's very hard for us, as Canadians, to believe that we perpetrated this level of abuse on people in our country.

The question for Mr. Harper is this: what will you do now?

Will you recognize that these residential schools were not isolated outcasts or small stains but rather symbolic of the nature of our treatment of native Canadians? Do you now realize that the way that we act toward these people, our fellow Canadians, our fellow human beings, has to change? Do you now see, along with all of the other parties in government, that we need to reexamine our handling of our relations and our treaties with the natives?

The apology is only a first step. Any money paid is largely irrelevant.

What matters is that the policy changes. If it doesn't, the apology rings hollow.

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