Imperialist apologies?
April 6, 2009 6:41 AM   Subscribe

In 2008 Australia's PM offered an apology to Australia's indigenous population for, well, for all sorts of imperialist shit. Have any other inheritors-of-imperialism ever apologised for anything? (and how was that received?)
posted by pompomtom to Law & Government (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Here in Canada the government recently apologized for taking native's children away from them and sending them off to boarding schools where they systematically destroyed their culture and converted them to christianity. This was all done as late as the 1950s and 1960s.
posted by hylaride at 6:59 AM on April 6, 2009

Best answer: The Canadian government apologized for sending Native people to residential schools.
posted by Midnight Rambler at 6:59 AM on April 6, 2009

Best answer: Canadian government also apologized to survivors and descendants of a Chinese "head tax" that was basically an attempt to keep asian immigration to a minimum, even though Chinese laborers were treating like crap and built the railways that allowed British Columbia to become a part of the dominion. They only stopped charging it 1947! The apology was well received so far as I can tell.
posted by molecicco at 7:10 AM on April 6, 2009

The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission is probably the best example of a country dealing with its imperialist past. But South Africa, Australia, and Canada, together with New Zealand--basically the old British colonies--are some of the only places where an example of this could be forthcoming.

Note that in all of these examples, a government is apologizing to its own people. I'm not aware of any country having apologized to other countries for past behavior. This is why it's only the British Commonwealth countries that fit what you're looking for: in all of the other former imperial colonies, the current government is composed of largely native peoples with little to no connection with the older, imperial regime. In Australia, South Africa, and Canada, the colonies were basically set free by Britain and the rule of the existing white "settlers" continued unabated. India is governed by native populations, as are the majority of former European colonies, in many cases because rule by the home country was forcibly cast off by "indigenous" peoples (think most of Latin America). These governments don't really have anything to apologize for, and a lot of potential ill-will was abated by trouncing the imperial mother country in the revolution.

The US could probably stand to make some apologies of its own--both to blacks for racial slavery and to Native Americans for pogroms--but such internal atrocities aren't generally considered "imperialist," as they lacked a foreign policy component. In Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, you had a government which was basically an organ of London doing terrible things in territories which were not recognized as being part of Great Britain. Descriptions of the US as the new "imperialist" power aren't really accurate, as the US really isn't doing much that resembles Victorian Britain's approach to its colonies, let alone Belgium in the Congo. Yeah, we've got soldiers scattered all over the globe, and yeah, we've been militarily active in multiple theatres on multiple continents, but we've never really thought that were were showing up anywhere to stay, and we never started shipping large amounts of colonists overseas to start new lives.
posted by valkyryn at 7:14 AM on April 6, 2009

Japanese officials have been expressing regret for Japan's imperial past so often there's actually a whole wikipedia page of Japanese apologies. As the page notes, however, the Government of Japan has not formally apologised, so you'll have to decide if the unofficial apologies count.
posted by blue mustard at 7:28 AM on April 6, 2009

Best answer: In 1993, Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, the Apology Resolution in which the US Government formally apologized for the overthrow of the native Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893.
posted by thewittyname at 7:40 AM on April 6, 2009

Best answer: See also the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, in which the US government apologized for internment of Japanese Americans during WWII.
posted by trip and a half at 7:58 AM on April 6, 2009

The Anglican and United churches of Canada have issued apologies for their part in Indian residential schools. Some Catholic organizations have also.
posted by teg at 8:00 AM on April 6, 2009

Best answer: New Zealand governments have the Waitangi Tribunal, which looks into alleged injustices agaist the indigenous Maori people by the Crown. If it finds that Crown failed to uphold its obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi, a formal apology is usually part of any restitution.

(Aside: When Britain colonised New Zealand it was via the mechanism of a formal treaty signed with the various Maori iwi (tribes); therefore things like land seizures, for example, are dealt with as a breach of the New Zealand government's agreement with Maori.)

New Zealand has also apologised to Samoa various incidents (mismanagement of the 1919 flu epidemic, supression of protest in the 20s and 30s) when New Zealand was appointed to take charge of Samoa after World War I - it was a German colony prior to that.

Most recently an apology was made to Chinese New Zealanders over a century and a bit of shitty treatment.
posted by rodgerd at 11:39 AM on April 6, 2009

« Older How can I stop fainting around blood?   |   How do I keep sneaky website users from accessing... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.