Though we reside right next to the United States, the Canadian conscience tends to be less individualistic and more concerned with keeping the peace. Many think it has to do with our awkward, introverted British roots. So while an American would never deign to apologize for something that wasn’t their fault (yes, we’re generalizing here), Canadians clamour over each other to be the most contrite. As Out Adventures prepares to lead a group of gays on a journey from Calgary to Vancouver through the Rocky Mountains, let’s look at how the Canadian apology impacts our home and native land.
The Canadian Apology Is Used To Prevent Violence
Maybe you bumped uglies with someone in an airplane aisle. Maybe you dropped a fragrant dookie in the loo at Tim Hortons (the Canadian equivalent of Dunkin’ Donuts) to the horror of everybody in line. Sometimes you just find yourself in close quarters and/or awkward positions. When you say sorry it prevents a call to the cops and/or a knuckle sandwich.
We Have Laws Protecting The Canadian Apology
Ontario’s “Apology Act“, passed in 2009, came about because people were confused whether saying ‘sorry’ was literally an admission of guilt, fault or liability. Thanks to the act, the Canadian apology is now inadmissible as evidence since it’s simply “an expression of sympathy or regret”. It’s one of many apology laws peppered across our great land.
We Even Apologize When It’s Not Our Fault
Perhaps most amusingly, Canadians apologize when they are definitely not at fault. Did somebody step on your toe? Apologize for that foot being in the way. Did a server spill coffee on you? That’s on you for sitting there. Did you make the pizza guy ring the doorbell twice even though he’s half an hour late? Sorry, sorry, and of course – sorry.
We’ve Made Some Pretty Epic Apologies
While apologizing your way through any encounter that doesn’t warrant an apology is peak Canadiana, the country has also made genuine apologies concerning serious historical transgressions. Unfortunately, we haven’t always lived up to our ‘nice’ reputation.
- Our government’s first noteworthy public apology transpired in 1988, when then-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney apologized for the internment of Japanese-Canadians during WWII. Their property was confiscated. Their mail was censored. In 1945, after the war ended, they were forced to either relocate to Eastern Canada or be deported to Japan. It would be another four years before they regained full rights and could return to the West Coast.
- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has apologized for another dark chapter related to the Second World War: when Canada turned away a ship carrying 907 Jewish refugees. Having already sought refuge in Cuba and the USA, the ship was forced to return to Europe, where 254 passengers eventually were killed in the Holocaust
- In 2006, then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood before the House of Commons and apologized to Chinese-Canadian immigrants for the imposition of a head tax between 1885 and 1923. More than 15,000 Chinese men helped build the Canadian Pacific Railway between 1881 and 1885 – and more than 1,000 died – but as Harper said in his speech “from the moment the railway was completed, Canada turned its back on these men.”
- In 2008, Canada publicly apologized to Indigenous Peoples for the Indian Residential Schools system. Beginning in the 1870s – and for over a century – 150,000 Aboriginal children were separated from their families, culture, and traditions with the singular goal of forced assimilation. Beyond the trauma of separation, they were inadequately housed, fed and clothed. They also dealt with horrible abuse from the religious orders that were supposed to be protecting them. Some didn’t even survive the ordeal.
- In 2017, and of most significance to our community, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered a historic apology to LGBT Canadians for the ‘gay purge’. People were charged or fired from the military or Canada’s civil service for their sexual orientation. With tears in his eyes, Trudeau proclaimed “It is our collective shame that you were so mistreated. And it is our collective shame that this apology took so long – many who suffered are no longer alive to hear these words. And for that, we are truly sorry.”
In The End
Alas, while a Canadian apology can be one of the most trite things you’ll ever hear, it can also be one of the most sincere, solemn, and self-aware statements uttered by an entire nation. In fact, if you’ve ever rung Out Adventures HQ, you’ve probably had one of our sales team deliver such an apology. Sorry!
Care to sample our cavalcade of compensatory statements? Why not join our journey from Calgary to Vancouver through the Rocky Mountains in August.
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