An Apology Too Far: there comes a point where another apology is meaningless.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

April 1st, 2018



Canadians are known throughout the universe as ‘the great apologists”. We apologize at the drop of the proverbial hat, even when we’re not at fault. And true to form our fearless leader, Mr. Trudeau, with a mighty hug befitting a grizzly bear, confessed that he was “really sorry” about something a British colonial government did seven years before British Columbia became a part of Canada, and three years before Canada even existed.

Trudea in India - clothing

A fashion show or a political statement.

It’s not like there weren’t other more relevant things he could have apologized for; like the conflict of interest around that unfortunate holiday he took with the Aga Khan, or the more recent fashion parade he gave the world while in India. And he should really have apologized to Canadians for giving a confessed and convicted child terrorist a whacking $10 million dollars just because he objected to spending quality time in the big house we call GITMO.

The trial and hanging of the six Tsilhqot’in chiefs in 1864 is a complicated matter. The band claims they were at war with Britain at the time. But does that justify killing 14 colonialists? Though one can appreciate the argument about their chiefs showing up for peace talks – to try to resolve the issues and end the war – only to get arrested, tried and become the subject of a hanging party instead.

But stuff happens and that was a long time ago. And if they were at war with the Brits was there any question who would win? To the winner goes the proceeds and all that. Spare the rod and spoil the savage. There were some countervailing claims of the other savage, the white man, spreading a smallpox contagion. And there were accusations of sexual assaults by the colonialists. But revenge, it seems, won the day.

And much of the land in question has now been returned to its original inhabitants. A 2014 Supreme Court ruling awarded over 1700 square kilometres to the 5000 member strong Tsilhqot’in nation. That’s a third of a square kilometre for every man woman and child, though the chiefs say they want more.

But that ruling has meant the B.C. government had to kiss and make up with the band. And so then it was Trudeau’s turn and here we are. Indeed our indigenous brothers are quick learners when it comes to the art of the deal.

They call themselves a nation – with the exact same powers as the federal and provincial governments. How can there be a sovereign nation within a sovereign nation? When that was happening in South Africa we called it apartheid. Isn’t that the root cause of all that bloodshed between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Will the Tsilhqot’in seek recognition from the UN next and issue their own passports as well? How will the Canadian government respond when the Tsilhqot’in nation sets up foreign diplomatic offices in Moscow and North Korea and purchases modern S-400 anti-aircraft weapons for its defence against… Canada? I thought we were all Canadian. Should we expect a ‘Tsilh-exit’ referendum someday soon?


Former Prime Minister apologizing to members of a First Nation in the House of Commons.

There have been occasions when apologies were perfectly appropriate. For example Stephen Harper’s apology for the government’s disastrous program of residential schooling for our indigenous youth. After all that was a federal program, well intentioned or not, which went truly sour.

Perhaps our PM should save his next apology for something more appropriate.

How about the outdated Indian Act which has perpetuated discrimination of first nations since it was enacted by our own government shortly after confederation? And can anyone doubt the contribution of the Indian Act to the poor living conditions on so many reserves and the infamy of our missing and murdered indigenous women.

This seems one apology too far for Mr. Trudeau. On whose authority does Mr. Trudeau claim to exonerate the six legally executed chiefs in 1864? My grandparents hadn’t even come to this country until after the 1900’s. He certainly doesn’t speak for me.

Apologizing may be good therapy and an apology is only a bunch of words. And while sticks and stones…words will never hurt me. But there comes a point where another apology becomes just another piece of meaningless garble when we do it all the time.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.     Tweet @rayzrivers

Background links:

So Sorry –    Tsilhqot’in –     Loose lips sink ships


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17 comments to An Apology Too Far: there comes a point where another apology is meaningless.

  • Mike R

    Ray, well said. This approach to apologize for anything in Canadian history (or before it) versus dealing with his own transgressions certainly shows us his mindset and what is important to him. I wish he was focused on running this country to ensure we will have prosperity for our future generations. Instead he just makes us look stupid.

  • Gary

    I think the distinction between condemning people of the past who held views we now find reprehensible should rest on the issue of whether those views led them to cause actual harm to others, as distinct from simply holding beliefs that were generally held during their era and merely articulating them. If you were of the view that native Indians should be “civilized” from a Euro-centric standpoint might be one thing. If you abused them in your efforts to carry out your beliefs, that might be quite another thing.

    With respect to serial public apologizing for some things that are a century old, I am inclined to agree with the author. In some instances, like the recent one, it amounts to nothing more than “virtue singling.”

    I am pleased to see that Mr. Rivers has come around to my way of thinking on the Khadr business.

  • Joseph Gaetan

    Well said Ray, nothing to add.

  • steve

    All joking aside, how on Earth, did we end up with Zoolander as our PM?

  • Byron

    Joke is on Ray then.

    He got the message right.

  • Lonely Taxpayer

    Um… Ray Rivers is Justin Trudeau’s #1 fan.

    The above story is an April Fools Joke.

    Ray will be back to normal in his next column.


    • Phillip

      Ray’s analysis is hardly a joke, although the prime minister he is talking about may well be one. What I find most distressing is Trudeau’s lack of “gravitas”;
      unless his speeches and responses are well rehearsed, he seems unable to utter more than sound bites. I could even live with this but his fiscal and economic policies are pointing this country towards disaster.

  • Sheila Ludgate

    You & I are on the same page here, Ray. I don’t recall giving anyone permission to apologize for anything on my behalf; perhaps I (we?) should have been consulted first, if the apology is to have any sincerity at all. I have been a proud Canadian all my life, yet now I find I’m questioning what that even means anymore… I’m ashamed of our representatives, federally & provincially.

  • Ray Rivers

    Dear Mr. Bowker – It’s called satire, not smart alec. Though he was not a full adult at the time of his arrest, Mr. Khadr was a confessed and convicted terrorist by anyone’s definition, killing an American soldier and making roadside bombs, the kind that killed Canadian soldiers. Any sleep deprivation or other enhanced interrogation he was subjected to was performed by US officials under US supervision and control, on US soil, at GITMO, even though Canadian intelligence officers may have been in observance. That he should have been repatriated by Canada much sooner than he was is indisputable, and for that he was entitled to an apology which he received.

    But he did confess and was found guilty by an authorized US court of law. And he received early release, once here, by Canadian authorities and has apologized to the victims of his action. $10.5 million dollars at one time is more money than 99 percent of Canadians will ever see. At the least that amount was an inappropriate payout for someone of Khadr’s education and work experience and the opportunity cost for time spent in prison. Khadr’s lawsuit should have been allowed to go through the courts rather than serve as the dangerous precedent it has become.

  • William Statten

    Well articulated Ray.
    A bold and refreshing article by a staunch Liberal.


  • Stephen White

    You can’t evaluate historical actions or events through the lens of 21st century norms and values. People are a function of the times in which they live.

    A good example: Tommy Douglas was an extraordinary Canadian, the first CCF Premier in Canada, the first national leader of the NDP, and a pioneer in promoting socialized medicine. However, Tommy Douglas had a dark side to his background and was a well-known proponent of the concept of eugenics. Much has also already been made about Sir John A. Macdonald’s views on aboriginals, but that alone doesn’t minimize his accomplishments as a nation builder and the first Prime Minister of our country.

    In both cases, these men’s views would, by today’s standards, be considered objectionable and odious, but based on the times in which they lived they weren’t out of place. People, like societies and public opinion, evolve. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister’s propensity for dealing with complex issues by continually resorting to apologies and/or photo opportunities in the hope of appeasing different groups is becoming not only tiresome but a bit lame.

  • Hans

    Well said. All these apologies are another example of how getting elected does not make anyone smart.

  • D.Duck

    Perry Bowker,
    “Too many cheap shots in this peice make it hard to take it seriously..”

    There is no cheap shots in this piece, just the facts and the truth.

    Ray is pro-Liberal party, but even Ray has had enough of JT’s drama. JT was elected to run a country, so do your job and quit crying for the cameras.

    • Perry Bowker

      As an example, “Giving a convicted child terrorist [10 million dollars] just because he objected to spending quality time in the big house we call GITMO” is an outrageous statement under any interpretation of the actual ‘facts’ and added nothing whatever to the point he is trying to make. Many similar smart alec remarks throughout the piece were quite unecessary.

      • Byron

        “is an outrageous statement under any interpretation of the actual ‘facts’”

        Not any Perry – just yours.

  • Perry Bowker

    Too many cheap shots in this peice make it hard to take it seriously..

  • Stu Parr


    Well said! I believe that our PM is in great danger of becoming ‘form over substance’. There is nothing more offensive than an empty, expedient “sorry” and how can this be anything but. It is also the most recent example of the current, very unfortunate practice of using today’s values and context to critically judge historical event and personna.