Should we apologize for the sins of the past?


No according to those who advocate the “hermeneutic” of discontinuity with the past. Hermeneutic refers to the lens by which we see, interpret and understand the world.  Those who adhere to this discontinuity interpret the wisdom and actions of previous generations as flawed, erroneous and naive and so forth.  By this logic, the sins of previous generations are theirs and theirs alone.

But, according to the 2013 apology by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to former students of Indian Residential Schools, it was wrong to forcibly remove children from their homes and seek to “take the Indian out of the child.”

Our colonizing ancestors thought they were doing what God wanted them to do.  Namely, bring Christianity and civilization to the indigenous peoples of Canada.  They  were naive but had the best of intentions.  They were not equipped to deal fairly with the indigenous peoples that Columbus had discovered for Spain and Pedro Cabral had discovered for Portugal.  Their society lacked the sensitivities and tools needed.  The Residential Schools should never have existed, period.  So if there is discontinuity with the past, why should we apologize today?

Because we all have sinned too.  Romans 5:12-14:

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned— 13 sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. 14 Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.

We see and interpret the facts of the past – history – through our own personal, cultural and racial lens.  Consequently there are an infinite number of views.  For example the native child who was removed from an alcoholic and abusive family situation who now feels that the Residential school saved her life.  The strong Catholic faith of the Algonquin Nation which they know and cherish.

Today in Canada since we see the past through much more inclusive lens, we may be reluctant to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Canada as reported by the NYT.  However there is indeed something to celebrate here – our willingness to say we are sorry.








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