Sometimes it just isn’t necessary to say sorry.
This message should be embraced by governments at both the federal and provincial levels, who feel obliged to apologize for every wrong — real or imagined — that has occurred at some point in our history.
How this disturbing trend has come about, and more importantly, when it will end, is unclear. The signs are not hopeful.
The most recent examples are of course, apologies by Lucien Bouchard to the Duplessis Orphans and by Indian Affairs Minister Jane Stewart to the aboriginals who were the victims of the residential school system.
The actions of the individuals who created these various policies are not defensible. But those individuals are no longer in office; in fact they are no longer even alive. For present-day governments to feel it’s necessary to apologize for their predecessors’ mistakes is neither appopriate nor required.
The list of apologies is a long one over the past couple of years, and a not very impressive one at that. The image of U.S. President Bill Clinton, for example, standing up before the American people and saying that he’s sorry for the institution of slavery is one that has grave implications for modern-day society. Even more ridiculous is the idea floating around in Britain that Christians, and more specifically representatives of the mainstream churches, should apologize to Muslims for the atrocities committed during the Crusades. The same Crusades that happened around 1,000 years ago.
Looking back at historical incidents in the past through our 20th-century views and attitudes, they will appear unjust and cruel. But the undeniable truth remains that, at the time they were in place, they were accepted by the majority.
Soon, the government is going to run out of wrongs to apologize for. What then? Will it lower its standards about what needs to be made amends for? Soon, various ministers and other assorted public officials will be forming a line to the podium to offer words of condolence for every imagined slight they may have caused.
Perhaps next it will be the Spanish government apologizing to the aboriginals of North America for exposing them to small pox. Or maybe Immigration Minister Lucienne Robillard will apologize to the Chinese population of Canada for the strict rules that all but halted their migration here for more than 50 years.
Or taking it to an extreme: Jean Chretien will tell the female population of Canada that he’s sorry for them not being allowed to vote until early this century.
To indulge an over-used cliché, we are in danger of proceeding down the wrong side of a slippery slope if our elected representatives insist on saying they’re sorry for their actions and those that came before them.
The only way to reverse this trend is for governments to hang a sign on the window telling the world that no more apologies are forthcoming. Mothers often tell their children to say sorry when they do something wrong, but even our politician’s mothers would be turned off by their enthusiasm.