In the archives of History, we’ll find countless instances of ethnic violence. Barbaric acts carried out against a specific community, with ethnicity, culture and perhaps even religion different than the mainstream culture’s, with the intention of wiping them out and/or crippling them.
What’s different this time, however, is that unlike the Indian government or the Rwandan government, where they even fail to accept the fact that the Sikh and Rwandan Genocides of 1984 and 1994 respectively were anything more than a bunch of random acts, Trudeau, and Canada by extension, have owned up to their dark history, and accepted their mistake.
The Canadian Prime Minister, Trudeau apologized to the Aboriginals publicly in a press conference on the 16th of December, 2015 for the forcible separation of 150000 Aboriginal children from their parents over the course of 100 years. During this period, the children, who were kept at residential schools, suffered from great physical, emotional and sexual abuse. More than 3000 deaths were recorded, while unofficial figures are much higher.
Trudeau also expressed his hope for an apology from the Pope, since many of these residential schools were operated by the Catholic Church.
Trudeau said, “Our goal, as we move forward together, is clear: it is to lift this burden from your shoulders, from those of your families and communities. It is to accept fully our responsibilities and our failings, as a government and as a country”.
The aboriginals, till today, continue to struggle in Canada with lesser opportunities, economic and social discrimination. They have higher levels of poverty and a lower life expectancy. The newly elected Canadian Prime Minister hopes that relations will the indigenous people can be renewed and fashioned along better dynamics this time.
There may be great debate on what role a public apology plays in lessening the suffering and grief of the community. Of course, it does nothing. But to pave way for improvement, acknowledgement and acceptance of the ethnic violence was imperative. This in itself is a milestone since governments worldwide still refuse to accept responsibility for violence they perpetrate on such a mass scale.
Whether or not Trudeau follows up on the reconciliatory recommendations made and accepted, is yet to be seen.