It increasingly looks as though 2008 will go down in history as the year in which most big time apologies relating to human abuse were offered.
It started in Australia on February 13, when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stood in parliament and formally apologised to the indigenous Aboriginal population for wrongs committed against them by past parliaments and governments.
He took responsibility for the laws and policies which inflicted profound suffering to especially the Stolen Generations of young Aboriginal children who were taken from their parents in a policy of assimilation which lasted from the 19th Century to the late 1960s.
Just over two months later on April 16, Pope Benedict XVI on his first visit to the United States as pontiff expressed deep regret for the sex abuse of children by Catholic Church priests since 1950.
He said then that he was “deeply ashamed, and … will do what is possible so this cannot happen again in the future.” The similarity between the American and Australian cases is that in both it is children who were at the receiving end of the abuse.
The difference is that Americans were compensated to the tune of US$2bn, while the Aborigines got no monetary accompaniment to the verbal apology.
The latest remorse was two days ago when Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper, like his Australian counterpart, took to parliament to apologise for forcing about 150,000 Aboriginal children to attend state-funded Christian boarding schools aimed at assimilating them.
This happened in a period stretching over two centuries beginning in the late 19th Century to the late 1990s. Most of the schools closed in the 70s.
Apologies, even when they take unnecessarily long to come, always pass as greatly decent initiatives. Many times delays are a result of politically calculated strategies to which abusers are never bold enough to own up to.
Perhaps next time there should be one apology for the abuse and another for the delay. Now that Australia, the Vatican and Canada have got the apology monkey off their back, when do we expect France to offload its own to Rwandans, for its part in the Genocide? By any measure, theirs is by far more embarrassing than any of the other three mentioned above.