I have to say I completely agree with Margaret Wente, which is probably going to get me labled as some sort of racist bastard. Oh well, tough.
The politics of "we're sorry for ancient wrongs that Canadians of generations past committed against your ethnic group, here's a cheque." Maaaaybe, and only maybe, it might be okay to say, "Yes, it was wrong to do x or y or z."
But when does it end? As Wente says,
Victim groups are swarming to this pot as bees to nectar. According to government records released to the Winnipeg Free Press, Ukrainians want $12.5-million for their internment during the First World War. The Germans want $12.5-million, too. The Italians want $12.5-million for the internment of 700 men during the Second World War. The Sikhs want $4-million, the Croats $2.8-million, and the Jews $2-million for being barred from immigrating to Canada between 1923 and 1945. African Canadians and Doukhobors want another $7-million for unspecified grievances.
It never ends. Okay, I'm a white male anglo-saxon, so I don't get any ethnic grievances, but I am gay, and even though my experience in Canada has been overwhelmingly positive (as likely is the experience of every hyphenated Canadian, particularly Italian, German, and Ukranian), my gay ancestors were the victims of institutional discrimination - which continued until just last year when we could get married! Where's my cheque?
And also: sure, by our modern standards, head taxes and other stuff might be bad. By the standards of the time, Canada was still a much better place than the rest of the world. Sure, we might have put Japanese Canadians in interment camps between 1939-45, but there were other camps in other places that were a little more unpleasant.
There is not a nation extant that has a perfectly clean past. The general human condition is to kill his neighbour, or steal his cows or is wife. As I've said before, the study of history is the study of human misery and suffering. As countries go, Canada was relatively mild. The Chinese lamenting the head tax might do well to think of what life in China at the time was like - or what it's like now.
And: what real purpose does giving someone now - who probably is living a good life - a cheque for wrongs committed against their ancestors? What good does that do? Do they sleep better at night? (Maybe, if they buy a new mattress) Does a cheque give them some greater sense of dignity or worth (other than financial)?
So, I just don't get it. I don't understand the logic of because the Canadian state, a century ago, didn't live up to 21st century standards in its conduct, and did something to your distant ancestors (maybe, given immigration has continued), the consequences of which are not impacting on your life now, we need to give you a cheque?
All it will do is keep us mired endlessly in the past, with opportunistic groups seizing on their past identity, foresaking their modern identity as Canadians, lamenting some past mistreatment, and asking for a cheque.
The government should just say "Look, we regret that it took us some time to become the beacon of freedom and justice and tolerance that we are now. We are sorry that we couldn't get to our modern standards back then. We now regret some things that were done back then. Let's move on and keep building a better country, together."