“The only correct actions are those that demand no explanation and no apology.” – The late Boston Celtics president and basketball coach Red Auerbach
“By the time most people say ‘I’m sorry’ it is already too late.” – American book author and financial advisor Ken Poirot
A Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted August 17th, 2016 on Niagara At Large
I turned on CBC this August 16th to the news that our Canadian government has apologized for something again.
This time it was for an injustice committed 60 years ago when the federal government of the day – a Liberal government under the helm of Louis St. Laurent – decided to swoop in on more than 250 First Nation Sayisi Dene people, drag them from their homes and take them on what one of the survivors called “a plane ride to hell” to some barren place way up in northern Manitoba where many of them froze or starved to death – all for apparently culling too many caribou in a place where these people they had been living and hunting for their survival long before the first white settlers showed up.
Hmm. Didn’t I just hear another news report just a day before this one about a culling of wolves in the Banff, Alberta area because the animals were said to be getting in the way of affluent white people wanting to hike in the woods. Maybe we should give some people a plane ride out of there.
But I digress.
Apologizing for past misdeeds – even ones committed a century or more ago, long after all the victims and the perpetrators of the grievous act are gone – seems to be the tonic of choice these days, especially for our political leaders, for gauzing over old wounds and soothing the guilty soul.
And certainly there are people out there who’ve had bad things happen to them or to their loved ones who look forward to an apology. Some think it’s going to give them some closure.
Six years ago, then-Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper decided it was time to apologize to friends and relatives of the more than 300 people who were killed when a bomb on an Air India flight that took off in Canada exploded over the Atlantic Ocean. It wasn’t clear how much closure came out of that when, three decades later, Canadian authorities still haven’t been able to bring to justice the people responsible for staging this mass murder.
In 2008, Harper to apologized indigenous people for the church-run residential schools generations of their children were forcibly taken from their homes and housed in for the purposes of wiping out there culture.
Apologize as he did, his Conservative government proceeded to do little or nothing about the Third World conditions many of Canada’s indigenous people have been living in and his government’s response to repeated demands for a public inquiry into what happened to more than 1,000 murdered or missing indigenous women and girls was always a flat ‘no’.
Now we‘ve got the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau through his Minister of Indigenous and Norther Affairs, Carolyn Bennett, apologizing this August 16th to survivors and members of their family of the forced move 60 years ago that wiped out that indigenous community in Manitoba over that bogus charge that the people there were hunting too many caribou.
At least this time around, the apology is coming from a government that recently moved ahead with an inquiry into those murdered and missing women and girls, and that is freeing up more funds to improve life in native communities.
However, the $33 million in compensation granted to the survivors this August 16th hardly makes up for the act of near genocide, including the estimated 117 people who were killed as a result of the move.
When you think about it, that much money would barely cover the cost today of purchasing a couple dozen run-down homes in Vancouver, and it would run out within two years if it were used to pay for the ongoing costs of maintaining the crumbling infrastructure left over from the 1970s summer Olympics in Montreal.
So however heartfelt the apologymay have been on the part of Minister Carolyn Bennett, who looked and sounded emotionally shaken while she was delivering it, how could it or any amount of financial compensation ever make up for this and countless other acts over the past two or other years that all but destroyed a great people from coast to coast.
So rather than apologies, let’s see our governments and all Canadians make and support decisions that no one has to apologize for in the future because they are decisions that lead to a better future for everyone.
Just for an example, don’t have a statement coming out of the Prime Minister’s office, as one did recently, celebrating Canada’s historical role in the world as a peacekeeping nation, then do nothing about Canadian corporations that sell military equipment to countries that torture and murder their own people, and support terrorist groups.
Don’t go to Paris, as Canada’s then brand new Prime Minister did last December and make glowing statements about fighting climate changes, and come back here and allow the tar sands industry to move forward with proposals to build pipelines for transporting this dirty goo across the country.
And don’t move forward with a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal the Harper government was involved negotiating and that threatens to destroy even more decent-paying jobs in Canada.
Don’t move forward with Harper’s plan to spend billions of Canadian dollars on over-priced fighter jets when that money could be spent on a universal pharma care program for the country and on making post-secondary education more affordable for our young people.
Forget about finding more things from 10 or 20 or 50 years ago to apologize for. Focus on doing things now that you won’t have to apologize for in the future.
I’ll finish this with a few words of wisdom from Australian journalist and disability rights activist Stella Young.
“Apologies are great,” she said, “but they don’t really change anything. You know what does? Action.”
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“A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders