Saturday, June 14, 2008

Sorry, Sorry, Sorry . . .

South Saskatchewan River, Saskatoon

While we’re apologizing . . . ©

By George Epp

A few days ago, Stephen Harper and the other party leaders apologized to the Aboriginals, Métis and Inuit of Canada on my behalf (except for those in Newfoundland & Labrador, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick). They told them I was sorry for the policy that took their children away from them and put them into boarding schools with the express purpose of forcefully assimilating them into the culture, religion and language of the colonials invading the continent.

Well I’m deeply sorry that that was done. But I find myself wanting to get more off my chest than just the residential school issue, which was horrible enough. So here I offer to the Aboriginal people and their descendants in ALL of Canada, a few more apologies:

1) I’m sorry that I benefited from the process that saw you marginalized by an imperialist and ethnocentric power—in your own country, and failed to recognize that fact.

2) I’m sorry that I continue to live on land that was stolen from you and then sold to others, and finally to me.

3) I’m sorry that you are still not considered worthy of the same property rights as other Canadians.

4) I’m sorry that when one of your women—a bright, influential health-care administrator—attempted to reserve a meeting room at a Winnipeg Hotel, she was presumed to be a prostitute and was told to take her trade elsewhere. (Apply this apology as needed to the thousands and thousands of incidents like this that whittled away at your self esteem and self confidence, and for which my protests were far too weak and half-hearted.)

5) I’m sorry that land agreed to be yours by virtue of signed treaties was confiscated in many places whenever the government felt a need for it.

6) I’m sorry that I didn’t punch my neighbour in the mouth for you when his truck was vandalized and he jumped immediately to the conclusion that it was “those damned Indian kids from the trailer park.” (Multiply this apology by several thousand, on second thought.)

7) I’m sorry that when one of you is discussed, you are an “Indian” and when a neighbour is discussed, he is a “person.”

8) I’m sorry that we have not done enough to focus on the basics of health and education as stepping stones to dignity and equality, and have reverted instead to a welfare and indigence model.

9) I’m sorriest for the fact, however, that despite the magnitude of the apologies, the conditions in which you find yourselves will probably not change noticeably, because the ones who made them are good at words, but not so good at doing what’s right.

10) I’m sorry that I belong to the group that precipitated the apology. I hope I can be a contributor to any group that forms to make real changes.

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