The government, Parliament, indeed every Canadian will be apologizing without exception for every student's experience, be it positive, negative or abusive.
But there are still high-level concerns it won't be enough and, while unlikely, could be rejected by native leaders as a political stunt that isn't sufficiently sincere. One senior government official involved in drafting the apology acknowledged in mid-gulp on an Ottawa beer patio: "Of course, we're still not sure they'll accept it."
Beverage splattered. Excuse me?
No. Excuse me, Mr Martin.
It's absolutely clear that by his inclusion of the word "positive", Don Martin is just plain clueless and vindictive. No one is apologizing for "positive" experiences - whatever few there may have been. And his public angst over the possibility that this apology will not be enough to satisfy all first nations people who lived through and were affected by the horrendous trauma which impacted every single area of their lives - the sexual, physical and psychological abuse, the destruction of their identities and culture, the indoctrination of forced assimilation, the resulting suicides and massive social problems that still reverberate to this day - (and that's not even mentioning the fact that our ancestors stole their land, gave them smallpox, herded them onto reservations like animals to be penned and continue to expect them to live in third world conditions) and Martin bemoans the fact that some people won't see this apology as being enough?
As far as I'm concerned, it isn't.
And let's not be too charitable in giving props to Stephen Harper's government for crafting this apology. Over and over again in the house, he and his cronies have made a point of chastising the Liberals for not properly handling this issue. While it's absolutely true that the Liberals dragged their feet for decades, that type of finger-pointing by such a shallow prime minister shows that there is some political grandstanding involved here. If there weren't, Steve would allow - as has been requested on many fronts - aboriginal leaders and victims the right to respond in parliament. But Steve is so anal-retentive that he stands on the "tradition" excuse ie. that he simply can't allow those voices to be formally heard or recorded in Hansard for all time because it would be an unusual break from parliamentary tradition. Well, Mr Harper, extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures so spare us your angst as well.
Our first nations people have already suffered enough at the hands of policies crafted by privileged white men - government and religious leaders who decided their job was to "civilize" a group of people whose culture they feared and didn't understand. And it seems that fact is still being denied by people like Don Martin and Stephen Harper who would rather re-victimize that population by mocking them and silencing them on the national stage.
Parliament does not belong to privileged white people. It belongs to all of us so, as far as I'm concerned, the people who should really be silenced in all of this are those who have yet to truly come to grips with what our country has done and continues to do to our first nations brothers and sisters. What they most need to do is to listen instead of continuing to be in love with the sound of their own sanctimonious voices. Maybe then they'll actually learn and understand why the wounds this nation, the victims, and all of us who care about the sorriest part of our history cannot be fixed by mere words pontificated on from above.
StatsCan released a report on hate crimes statistics today. This country still has a long road to travel before prejudice based on race is anywhere close to being eliminated. One thing is certain: if our government officials and the media refuse to acknowledge their complicity in stirring up resentments against minorities, we are all doomed to suffer those continual injustices with the victims - those of us who actually care, that is.
Do your part. Speak up and act when you can. Compassion is not a vice.
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Reconciliation goes sour in Canada
Assembly of First Nations
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada
CBC Newsworld will provide complete coverage of the apology and house proceedings on Wednesday as will CPAC where you can watch it online.