The Canadian Apology to Indigenous Residential School Survivors: A Case Study of Renegotiation of Social Relations

  • Neil Funk-Unrau
Part of the Rhetoric, Politics and Society Series book series (RPS)


Ever since the groundbreaking work of Nicholas Tavuchis2 growing number of psychologists, political scientists, legal analysts and other scholars have become enamoured with the complex implications of the deceptively simple expression, ‘I am so sorry …’ What does it mean to give an apology? What must be included in this statement for it to be considered genuine or sincere? Can all acts of wrongdoing be justifiably apologised for? Who should be expected to apologise and who to? Can an apology stand on its own or does it need some additional gesture of recompense to make it meaningful?


Aboriginal People Alternative Dispute Resolution Residential School Canadian Government Legal Claim 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 2.
    Nicolas Tavuchis, Mea Culpa: A Sociology of Apology and Reconciliation (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Roy L Brooks, ed. When Sorry Isn’t Enough: The Controversies Over Apologies and Reparations for Human Injustice (New York: New York University Press, 1999);Google Scholar
  3. Mark Gibney et al. eds. The Age of Apology: Facing Up to the Past (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Elazar Barkan, The Guilt of Nations: Restitution and Negotiating Historical Injustices (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2000).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Lee Taft, ‘Apology Subverted: The Commodification of Apology’, Yale Law Journal 109 (2000): 1135–1160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 7.
    Michael Cunningham, ‘Saying Sorry: The Politics of Apology’, Political Quarterly 70 (1999): 285–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Mark Gibney and Eric Roxstrom, ‘The Status of State Apologies’, Human Rights Quarterly 23 (2001): 911–939.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Girma Negash, Apologia Politica: States and Their Apologies By Proxy (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2006).Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    John Borneman, ‘Public Apologies as Performative Redress’, SAIS Review 25 (2005): 53–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 9.
    Danielle Celermajer, The Sins of the Nation and Ritual of Apologies (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Danielle Celermajer, ‘Revealing the Religious Underpinnings of Political Apologies’, in Forgiveness: Promise, Possibility and Failure, ed. Geoffrey Karaban and Karoline Wigura (Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2011), 101–110.Google Scholar
  12. 10.
    Robert R. Weyeneth, ‘The Power of Apology and the Process of Historical Reconciliation’, The Public Historian 23 (2001): 9–38;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Michael R. Marrus, ‘Official Apologies and the Quest for Historical Justice’, Journal of Human Rights 6 (2007): 75–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 11.
    Arthur J. Ray, An Illustrated History of Canada’s Native Peoples: I Have Lived Here Since the World Began (3rd ed.), (Toronto: Key Porter Books, 2010);Google Scholar
  15. Olive P. Dickason and David T. McNab, Canada’s First Nations: A History of Founding Peoples from Earliest Times (4th ed.), (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2008).Google Scholar
  16. 12.
    James R. Miller, Shingwauk’s Vision: A History of Native Residential Schools (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996);Google Scholar
  17. John S. Milloy, ‘A National Crime’: The Canadian Government and the Residential School System, 1879 to 1986 (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999).Google Scholar
  18. 13.
    Basil H. Johnston, Indian School Days (Toronto: Key Porter Books, 1988).Google Scholar
  19. 14.
    Agnes Grant. No End of Grief: Indian Residential Schools in Canada (Winnipeg: Pemmican Publications, 1996);Google Scholar
  20. Agnes Grant, Finding My Talk: How Fourteen Native Women Reclaimed Their Lives After Residential School (Saskatoon: Fifth House, 2004).Google Scholar
  21. 15.
    Royal Commission of Aboriginal Peoples, Final Report (Ottawa: Government of Canada, 1996).Google Scholar
  22. 16.
    Reprinted in Gregory Younging et al., Response, Responsibility and Renewal: Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Journey (Ottawa: Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2009), 353–355.Google Scholar
  23. 18.
    Matt James, ‘Wrestling With the Past: Apologies, Quasi-Apologies and Non-Apologies in Canada’ in The Age of Apology: Facing Up to the Past, ed. Mark Gibney et al. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), 137–153.Google Scholar
  24. 20.
    Michael Murphy, ‘Apology, Recognition, and Reconciliation’, Human Rights Review 12 (2011): 47–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 21.
    Jeff Corntassel and Cindy Holder, ‘Who’s Sorry Now? Government Apologies, Truth Commissions, and Indigenous Self-Determination in Australia, Canada, Guatamala, and Peru’, Human Rights Review 9 (2008): 465–489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 23.
    Law Commission of Canada, Restoring Dignity: Responding to Child Abuse in Canadian Institutions (Ottawa: Government of Canada, 2000);Google Scholar
  27. Ken Cooper-Stevenson, ‘Reparations for Residential School Abuse in Canada: Litigation, ADR and Politics’ in Repairing the Past? International Perspectives on Gross Human Rights Abuses ed. Max Du Plessis and Stephen Pete (Antwerp: Intersentia, 2007), 359–388.Google Scholar
  28. 25.
    AFN, Report on Canada’s Dispute Resolution Plan to Compensate for Abuses in Indian Residential Schools (Ottawa: AFN, 2005);Google Scholar
  29. Neil Funk-Unrau and Anna Snyder, ‘Indian Residential School Survivors and State ADR: A Strategy for Co-optation?’, Conflict Resolution Quarterly 24 (2007): 285–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 28.
    Reprinted in Gregory Younging et al., Response, Responsibility and Renewal: Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Journey (Ottawa: Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2009), 357–359.Google Scholar
  31. 32.
    Neil Funk-Unrau, ‘The Re-Negotiation of Social Relations Through Public Apologies to Canadian Aboriginal Peoples’, Research in Social Movements, Conflict and Change 29 (2008): 1–19;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Emil B. Towner, ‘Apologia, Image Repair, and Reconciliation: The Application, Limitations, and Future Directions of Apologetic Rhetoric’, Communication Yearbook 33 (2009): 431–468.Google Scholar
  33. 34.
    Matthew Dorrell, ‘From Reconciliation to Reconciling: Reading What “We Now Recognize” in the Government of Canada’s 2008 Residential Schools Apology’, English Studies in Canada 35 (2009): 27–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 35.
    Pauline Wakeham, ‘Reconciling “Terror”: Managing Indigenous Resistance in the Age of Apology’, American Indian Quarterly 36 (2012): 2.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Neil Funk-Unrau 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Neil Funk-Unrau

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations