Back in July, I applauded the city of New Westminster for taking positive, tangible steps to correct a history of racism against Chinese immigrants. I thought that it would stop there, but apparently they’re keeping the train of being smart people one step further:
New Westminster will be the first municipal government in Canada to offer a formal apology to Chinese Canadians for historic racism and discrimination. The apology, which will be offered in English and Chinese on September 20, is part of a continuing reconciliation initiative undertaken by the city of New Westminster.
Stuff like this happens so rarely, I thought it was a good idea to highlight it. There have been many apologies in the past – by the Canadian government, by various church groups, by corporations, the list goes on. The difference between a real apology and a fake one is that when you’re actually sorry about something, you take steps to fix it. The city of New Westminster is setting an example for the rest of Canada, showing that an apology doesn’t mean simply dragging yourself through the dirt and debasing yourself out of guilt. An apology can be, and in this case, a noble show of moral character and strength:
Acknowledging the difficult history is part of developing a healthy relationship based on historical truth and a sense of justice, said Chu. Mayor Wayne Wright said the city assigned senior staff to do historical research on Chinese history in the region. Historical facts came out,” said Wright. “The Chinese community helped build our region, and we found out some of the things that went on that weren’t so pleasant.” Wright said making a formal apology will be just one more step in the process of reconciliation and moving forward.
The truth, in this case, is that a rich and important part of the history of the region (and indeed, the entire province) was being systematically ignored. Chinese immigrants contributed generations of lives to the building of this beautiful place, and were repaid for their efforts by deeply-ingrained discrimination. Acknowledging the truth of this doesn’t diminish the city of New Westminster, nor does it oblige white people in British Columbia to don sackcloth and rub ashes in their hair. It is a formal recognition of the truth of the past, and it is coupled with an ongoing platform to correct for the mistakes of history.
I’m proud of New Westminster in this matter, and hope that their example is emulated by other municipalities.
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