In the run-up to the provincial election we will have the usual mudslinging goings on. Everything is a scandal. He did, she did, they did, and on and on. Get used to it because that is the kind of election campaign we are likely to have.
One of the so-called scandals is a leaked document referring to the provincial government making an apology to the Chinese community for the federal head tax that was applied by the government of Canada.
It makes one wonder what all this apology businesses is about. An apology is something that I make for my inappropriate behavior. How can any government assume to apologize for what happened decades ago? Acknowledgment of what has happened in the past is more appropriate.
By all means we should not ignore the harm which has been done to communities and individuals in the past and give our assurances that those types of activities will not be part of the future.
The Sikhs that were turned from our shores, the head tax on Chinese immigrants, our treatment of Japanese Canadians, residential schools and our treatment of our aboriginal community also has to be evaluated on the basis of the social norms that existed at the time they occurred. Society of the time was overwhelmingly Caucasian and Christian. Discrimination, especially those with different skin pigmentation, was considered quite all right. For the vast majority of us, those values are diametrically opposed to how we think today.
That does not mean that it did not cause harm and deep anguish to those who were discriminated against.
I have had the privilege to hear the stories of the grave injustices done to the Japanese community during the Second World War. It is a story of cruelty and robbery. Many of the Japanese who were discriminated against had been Canadians for several generations. How our grandparents behaved can only be partially explained by the hysteria of war. It is intriguing that so few spoke up in the defense of our Japanese Canadian citizens. Fear is a powerful motivator.
The Indian residential school program, in today’s light, was a disaster causing anguish and pain and harmed many of our fellow citizens. It was a sad time, and it will take generations to mitigate the economic and psychological harm that was done.
It is a topic in our country that should never be far away from our daily lives. All fair-minded people are obligated to a knowledge those events and contribute to the solution, whatever that may be.
To apologize for the action of those that came before us seems of little value. To acknowledge what happened and help to build a better future is the more appropriate action.
I am willing to apologize to others for the mistakes that I have made. I cannot apologize on the past generations behalf. I can have knowledge what occurred in the past was not appropriate and do my best to rectifying the harm done out of a sense of fairness rather than guilt.
It is doubtful that the Scandinavians will apologize to Great Britain for the excesses of the Vikings. That was then, this is now.
If we sincerely wish to assist our fellows to live a better life, then we must acknowledge the mistakes of the past, do our best to define the problems created and find solutions that will be of positive value to all of us.