The definition of apology, found on Dictionary.com, includes the sole synonym “excuse”. If this is the case, then why do we ‘apologize’ for things we have done wrong if we know they were unjust? What did Stephen Harper’s “apology” to Aboriginal victims of residential schools truly mean? “I’m sorry”? Or was it just a political line-riding act of excusing himself and the government from further detriment; is an apology just an excuse? Or has the language we speak evolved enough over time to make it less so?
We are taught in elementary school, the value of an apology means to say that “I’m sorry,” and “this won’t happen again.” By this standard, the government has failed Aboriginals, and more importantly, their youth. Where is the job description, of the current Prime Minister, in one of the most peaceful countries in the world, stating the duty to carry out elimination of certain cultures, “apologized” for nearly 7 years ago? If you did “kill the Indian in the child”, why don’t you at least try to raise them again there?
In April, 200 million dollars over five years federally, was allotted, in the national budget, to improve the education of Aboriginals, while $210 million is being spent over only four years on the celebrations of Canada’s 150th anniversary alone. Additionally, the government announced that they would be spending $11.8 billion over 10 years starting in 2017-18 on the improvement of our armed forces. That’s $5.9 over five years; Over 25 times more than the improvement of Aboriginal education. Do they really want to improve our safety from external forces more than protect those who already struggle internally?
Only six days ago, a 19 year-old woman, named Paige, died in the east side of Vancouver due to a drug overdose. She was identified as legally blind and had been exposed to violence throughout her life. She was moved from house to house and never received the care she needed in her childhood. Society moved forward while she tried to hold on for dear-life. She was an aboriginal.
Aboriginal youth are the “least likely to graduate”, reported Universities Canada. This very lack of support within their schooling causes fallout over the course of their lives, giving them less opportunity for employment, careers, and a healthy lifestyle. This unsafe environment as youth and children can lead to drugs, homelessness, joblessness, and alcoholism, amongst other negative paths in their early adulthood. What I don’t understand is how the government would apparently just like to sit back and watch it all go down within their own borders.
Two negatives do not make a positive. A negative and a neutral zero do not make a positive. Only a negative plus more positives can create a positive, a right. The unmeasurable negative of residential schools that physically ended only 19 years ago, has not yet been righted, not enough positive has been added to correct the undeniable fault of the government. If the government would truly like to ‘apologize’ for what they did, they better make sure they’re actually willing to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
A grade 10 Chippewas student, said to the Toronto Star at a recent Truth and Reconciliation Conference, that they don’t learn enough about their own culture in society: “We learn about everyone else’s history, but we should learn more about ours.” Is this not seemingly a carry out of the impacts of residential schools only in a smaller, less-noticeable way? The diminishment of Aboriginal culture in the child seemingly still exists today, but we must not travel down the routes of our ancestors if we wish to see any different results. The people’s belief in the wrongness of residential schools is the only true indicator of its very unjust values. The government’s ‘apology’ and removal of the schools shows their admittance and agreement that these settings are unequal, but where has their resolve gone since then?
“Investing in Aboriginal Communities” is included in the federal budget, but closely followed by the Canada 150 celebrations section. The Aboriginal support from the government should not be just a small few pages in the book. We settled here, occasionally moving into their pre-existing settlements, and supposedly we have accepted their peoples into our society. Now if only we could actually accept them and make their culture more than just welcome, but flourishing.