May. 23, 2022

Absolving our conscience of the sins of the past

Our forefathers were a nasty bunch. Now we are expected to pay for their deeds. The distant generations of our society, before we had a charter of rights, was guilty of a lot of dastardly behaviour by today’s standards. Now we’re living with retroactive guilt. Can money absolve our conscience of the sins of the past?

We’re familiar with the federal government policy on residential schools that tore children from their indigenous families to reprogram and mould them into white society. It lasted until the 1970s.

We had the Komagata Maru case in 1914 which saw 376 passengers from India denied entry into Canada because they couldn’t pay a $200 head tax and government policy of the day against Indian immigration. Their ship was turned around and sent back to India.

Most recently it is clearing the conscience on the internment of Japanese Canadians who were imprisoned in the Interior of our province during the second world war. That impacted many here in our community. Their properties were seized and they were sent to the camps in 1942 under the false pretense that they might be possible agents on behalf of Japan.

The history of Chinese immigrants to Canada is a long one, dating back as far as 1788 when they were brought to Canada as a source of cheap labour, specifically the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Their story is about as close to slave labour as you can get. Thousands came from China and an estimated 7,000 were brought here from California. Chinese immigration to Canada continues and is growing.

There’s enough blame to go around but most of us were not born and many of the victims of these events are also no longer alive. Federal and provincial governments have made token official apologies for things other generations were responsible for. 

There have been reparation payments, money to ease the societal conscience. Premier John Horgan announced $100 million in payments to victims of Japanese internment . . . and their families, thus stretching it into additional generations.

All of these events were a black mark on past generations . . . but the guilt trip has to stop somewhere. Money is not a cure-all, a lot of today’s action is virtue signalling.