The Art and Responsibility of the Apology

The Art and Responsibility of the Apology
Posted on August 24, 2016 | Rob Dekker | Written on August 24, 2016
Letter type:
Blog Post

An apology is only as good as the actions that follow it.   If the actions don`t match the words then what? Why apologize?

In 1984, Prime Minister Trudeau said when replying to then Opposition Leader Mulroney for the demand to apologize to Japanese Canadians “How many other historical wrongs would you have to be righted?” ( Trudeau warned us about the Pandora’s Box that would be opened with that initial apology.

Since Mulroney’s 1988 apology there have been another five apologies from the Canadian government. The latest recently took place on August 16th 2016, an apology to the Manitoba Sayisi Dene First Nation for its forced relocation in 1956. (

Was Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau right?

In its almost 150 years, the Government of Canada has issued a handful of official apologies.

1988 – Apology for the internment of Japanese Canadians

2001 – Apology for the execution of 23 Canadian Soldiers for desertion in WW1

2008 – Apology to First Nations for Residential Schools

2006 – Chinese Head Tax

2016 – Turning away of Komagata Maru

2016 – Relocation of the Manitoba Sayisi Dene First Nation

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to give his third apology this year for the persecution of sexual minorities in Canada.

If the government is in the mood for apologies, I can think of a couple historical missteps that are long overdue for an apology.

My first suggestion is an apology to women for denying the right to vote. Women were given the right to vote in 1921, but it was not until actions in the 1940’s and finally in 1960 when ALL women were given the right to vote in Canada. From this apology the government could act further correct another injustice, to ensure ‘equal pay for equal work’ legislation is introduced and passed.

If an apology can truly spur action, an apology to those living in poverty is long overdue. The Government of Canada has been trying to solve poverty since 1836, but even then the Charity Aid Act left the care of the poor to churches and charity. Today, the Municipal, Provincial and Federal governments still have not figured this out. Money is being thrown at this problem and poverty is still with us. Maybe the words “I am sorry, government in Canada has failed millions of Canadians since Confederation” will be the stimulus needed to eliminate poverty and poor health.

Wouldn’t #Canada150 be the perfect backdrop to apologize and name "eradicating poverty" as Canada’s National Sesquicentennial Project?

As Canadians we are infamous for being ‘sorry’, if we’re going to apologize let’s make sure we follow up the words with actions, concrete actions that bring something good from an act of stating how sorry we really are.

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RobDekker's picture

Rob currently works on Parliament Hill and is on the Daybreak Non-Profit Housing Board of Directors.  He writes regularly on his blog #RedHeartBlueSign at www.... More