Sometimes you have to listen to Dad - even if your dad happens to be Pierre Trudeau. When asked about apologies for historic injustices, Pierre Trudeau, who did not suffer a fool, said “I think it is the job of governments, to be just within our own time”. His son Justin is now our Prime Minister, but he has ignored that advice in favour of apologizing to everybody for everything (except his own mistakes). Justin particularly likes to apologize on behalf of our long-dead ancestors. Pierre Trudeau may have been correct though, it is difficult to fix history. We might be better served to govern our own actions here and now.
We run into the weight of history regularly these days. In Canada, it is customary at any public gathering to begin with a statement that the ground we stand on is the traditional land of First Nations. To do so is considered to be progressive and some form of kindness even if it may be false in the details. The specifics of treaties are never mentioned, as if unimportant. These present day “acknowledgements” seek a popular consensus by which to overwrite what actually was brokered, bought and sold long ago.
To rewrite history you dislike on a whim is a dangerous road. I also find it distasteful to apologize for what others have done. We cannot right all the wrongs of history. All those people are gone, yet here we all are, born with some kind of equal claim to the present, despite the actions of our forefathers.
The present is inconvenient to historic grievances. It means you have to assign guilt to those living now, based solely on their ancestry. Communist countries have routinely turned this kind of group guilt into revenge and wholesale slaughter. Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has pointed out that the line dividing good and evil runs through every human heart. It is good advice. People who claim to love justice, act justly. Those who cry for peace, must be peaceable. It could not be any other way.
I am also wondering what the end game is when we are asked to repeat mantras which suggest that the land on which we stand has not been had legitimately. Are we supposed to hand over title and deed to our homes? If not, why are we mouthing platitudes?
Last time I checked, there are laws where I live, which govern the division and purchase of land. To buy land I am obliged by the powers that be, to get title to the deed, to prove that I have paid for it lawfully, and that there are no existing liens on that land. Once that has been established, I am free to build and live upon the plot I have purchased, within established limits, and providing I pay my ongoing taxes. It is the law of the land.
It seems that anarchy is now redefining rights of ownership. Hence, I am really wondering why I am paying land transfer fees, a mortgage, and property taxes. The people who require me to obey laws, have some explaining to do. If they do not have an answer, then I have a land affirmation of my own, and I am fairly passionate about it.
“I acknowledge that the land I am standing on is the traditional territory of Trevor Toop and Abir Harouni, who by their sweat and labour, established a home on this spot with their own savings. This homestead was maintained by their hard work, for the raising and nurturing of their children, to whom they owe some kind of secure and safe existence. The land today is sustained by their care, stewardship and diligence...”
That’s my affirmation, a bit more specific than “somebody lived here sometime”. All others need not apply. Why do I say all this? Because it’s 2021. And because it is enough for us to be just in our own time. Some advice for Junior. Listen to Dad, he was right on that one.