The precedent was set when Japanese Canadians won apologies and reparations for having been interned during World War II.
Now Chinese Canadians want official apologies and a cash endowment from the federal government to compensate for institutionalized discrimination against them during the years 1885 to 1923.
There'll be more. Some Ukrainian Canadians are demanding apologies for those Ukrainians interned during World War I because they were citizens of the enemy Austro-Hungarian empire.
Each of these grievances has merit.
Remember, it wasn't just Japanese aliens who were carted off into camps, among them were Canadian born Japanese who happened to be of Japanese ancestry.
Racism was at work.
And singling out Chinese immigrants for an immigrant head tax ($50 to $500 each) was clearly discriminatory.
But those deeds carried out by earlier Canadian governments in vastly different times happened. They are facts of Canadian history, sometimes dreadful facts.
But demanding apologies from present governments and compensation from modern taxpayers doesn't address the situation. You cannot change history. You can make a solemn effort not to repeat history's evils.
But a chain of modern apologies demeans the memory of those who suffered in the past and it opens way to a ludicrous series of ceremonial apologies for all the mistakes of the past, real or imagined.
What was done to Japanese Canadians and Chinese immigrants was wrong, racist and should never happen again in Canada. But where should the apologies stop? Should there be geographical or chronological limits?
Do we owe the Germans an apology for the terror bombing of Dresden at the end of World War II? Do we owe the Americans an apology for burning the White House in the War of 1812? Has anyone told France that England is sorry it burned Joan of Arc?
Surely we serve Canada and all Canadians best by learning from the mistakes of history and not by trying to buy our way out of them.
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Document URL: http://www.infoukes.com/history/internment/booklet02/doc-063.html
Copyright © 1994 Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Copyright © 1994 Lubomyr Luciuk
We acknowledge the help in the preparation of this document by Amanda Anderson
Page layout, design, integration, and maintenance by G.W. Kokodyniak and V. Pawlowsky
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Originally Composed: Tuesday December 3rd 1996.
Date last modified: Thursday October 30th 1997.