Last Tuesday was national aboriginal day. It’s something that’s been happening for 20 years and that, honestly, most Canadians probably aren’t aware of. This most recent one was special, however, as it not only marks the 20-year anniversary of there being a day supposedly devoted to aboriginals in Canada, but it is also the first to have happened after the conclusion of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee.
In keeping with that, Historica Canada has released a couple of new heritage minutes, those short television spots that Canadian channels run as part of fulfilling their Canadian Content requirements. Usually, the 60 second spots detailing some aspect of Canadian history are fairly positive in nature. However, this time, things are different. The first video looks at the establishment of Treaty 9 with Canada’s indigenous peoples, and points out that although they were promised much, many of the obligations on Canada’s side remain unfulfilled.
The second, darker, Heritage Minute, looks at the residential schools in Canada, something that only finally ended in Canada in 1996. Neither video ascribes blame, or suggests guilt, they simply lay out what happened, without flinching.
Just as an aside, stop for a moment and think about that date. The last residential school was still active in 1996. Yet I seem to recall hearing about how the residential school system was a bad thing for as long as I can remember. I thought it was a thing of my parents and grandparents. It was a shock to realize that, no, it was going on even as I was hearing about it.
Back to topic, the day was marked by several ceremonies, including a sunrise ceremony by Prime Minister Trudeau. Trudeau did not apologize for the residential schools in that ceremony, because that apology had been delivered on the floor of the legislature a month before. One of a number of apologies that Canada has been handing out. Canadians have a reputation for apologizing, it is one of our traits that comedians like to lampoon us for, and that you see getting mentioned as defining a Canadian. And I know there are some people who get upset at the idea that we have to apologize for everything bad that we’ve done in our history. They argue that, as we didn’t do it personally, (although when it comes to the residential schools, it turns out we probably did) we shouldn’t be the ones apologizing. Others argue that apology without some form of reparation is meaningless.
I disagree with both. I look on our government’s apologies not as a government blaming the Canadian people of today for what happened in the past, nor do I see them as something that demands we act to “right the wrong” that was done. An apology, a Canadian apology, is an acknowledgement. It is us recognizing that we did wrong, and a promise that we will attempt to do better in future. It is, in short, a sign of growth. As we recognize where our society has hurt people, and take steps to ensure we do not do so in future, apologies are, to my mind, significant ways of marking these places in our history. And, to my mind, that’s part of why we’re so quick to apologize as well. A Canadian apology does not come from a place of guilt, but rather of learning.
And if you don’t like that, well, sorry.
As for this issue, it’s a bit more “issue” based than some. Deanna Roney looks at the response to changing the national anthem, From Where I Sit takes a look at some of the more recent news headlines that will probably affect you, and the comic this week brings forward an uncomfortable truth. Plus we have the second part of our photo feature for convocation, a return of The Writer’s Toolbox, and of course a great selection of reviews, interviews and entertainment. Enjoy the read!