No more apologies for the sins of our fathers
There is a part of me that wishes Justin Trudeau was more like Paul Quassa. Now who might that be, you may well ask. He just happens to be the newly minted Premier of Nunavut, one of Canada’s three Territories, populated mainly by indigenous people. He was born in an igloo and at the age of six he was sent to a residential school in Churchill, Manitoba. He not only survived that, he thrived. “I received a very strong education at that time and I retained a very strong sense of my identity,” he said. Not a particularly popular thing to admit these days.
Yet, at age 65 Paul Quassa has witnessed many of the struggles endured by indigenous people, especially those of Métis descent, including the hideous side of residential schools related to sexual abuse. He spent much of his career working to improve their lives. Now, as Premier of Nunavut, he has power. Is he seeking to right the wrongs of past generations? Does he want apologies or retribution? Not at all. “We want Nunavut to shine,” he said. “We want to look forward, not back.” How I wish our Prime Minister had the same outlook.
It seems to me that every time I turn around, Justin Trudeau is apologizing to someone for the sins of our past, well before the mandate of his government. We should know by now that when you apologize, you admit wrong doing and when Government admits wrong doing, it leaves itself open to huge financial settlements like the $10 million gift Canadian taxpayers recently gave Omar Khadr.
Last week, Prime Minister Trudeau tearfully apologized to people in Newfoundland and Labrador affected by residential schools. Next week, as part of the settlement of a class action, he is apparently going to apologize for LGBTQ discrimination by the military, RCMP and the Civil Service between 1950 and 1990. We will never know how vigorously the Trudeau government defended this civil action, but we will soon find out how much it will cost a new generation of taxpayers who were not involved in these issues. A generation, I might add, that to a very large extent has a much different, enlightened and more positive outlook when it comes to our LGBTQ community. And yet, they must pay.
It is interesting and somewhat ironic that Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the father of our current Prime Minister, did not share his son’s penchant for apologizing for the sins of our fathers. When questioned by then Opposition Leader Brian Mulroney, who demanded an apology to a particular segment of Canada’s population, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau said, “I do not think the purpose of government is to right the past. It cannot re-write history. It is our purpose to be just in our time.” He was right.
The hard facts are that an apology in 2017 does not undo the sins of the past. Whatever damage was done, was done. It happened and nothing can change that. What does matter is who we are today as a society and that is what we should be held accountable for.
Canada’s history, while in many ways a glorious one, also includes a large number of injustices committed against many people. For example, women in Canada were treated as second class citizens and denied the right to vote until 1918 and, even then, Canadian citizens of Japanese or Aboriginal descent could not vote. Unbelievably, it was not until 1960 that ALL adult female citizens had the right to vote in Canada. We simply cannot undo these wrongs.
Clearly, a government that appears to be willing to take responsibility for the multitude of mistakes of past generations runs the risk of opening the floodgates to countless lawsuits for real and perceived damage inflicted by past generations. Canadians in my view, should not be put in the position of apologizing and paying for injustices they, themselves, did not commit. I have never understood how one can really apologize for someone else’s actions.
If Prime Minister Trudeau remains bent on offering apologies, perhaps he could start with his own government. Just take the latest boondoggle, a $5.6 million skating rink on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. It was to be opened for just 24 days, but public pressure has extended it to 83 days. Nevertheless, you have to reserve two days in advance, you have to get there an hour early and you can only skate for 45 minutes, without listening to your music or drinking hot chocolate! Wow, what a treat! And this treat will be enjoyed by about one tenth of one per cent of our population at a cost of $67,500 for each and every one of the 83 days there is ice on the rink.
Hard to believe in these days of unprecedented federal deficits. As CTV’s Don Martin put it, “a teeth grinding waste of tax dollars.” Now that, Prime Minister, is something for which to apologize!
Don’t miss out on Doppler! Sign up for our free newsletter here.