Government Apologies to Indigenous Peoples

In C. Allen Speight & Alice MacLachlan (eds.), Justice, Responsibility and Reconciliation in the Wake of Conflict. Springer. pp. 183-204 (2013)

Alice MacLachlan
York University
In this paper, I explore how theorists might navigate a course between the twin dangers of piety and excess cynicism when thinking critically about state apologies, by focusing on two government apologies to indigenous peoples: namely, those made by the Australian and Canadian Prime Ministers in 2008. Both apologies are notable for several reasons: they were both issued by heads of government, and spoken on record within the space of government: the national parliaments of both countries. Furthermore, in each case, the object of the apology – that which was apologized for – comes closer to disrupting the idea both countries have of themselves, and their image in the global political community, than any previous apologies made by either government. Perhaps as a result, both apologies were surrounded by celebration and controversy alike, and tracing their consequences – even in the short term – is a difficult business. We avoid excessive piety or cynicism, I argue, when we take several things into account. First, apologies have multiple functions: they narrate particular histories of wrongdoing, they express disavowal of that wrongdoing, and they commit to appropriate forms of repair or renewal. Second, the significance and the success of each function must be assessed contextually. Third, when turning to official political apologies, in particular, appropriate assessment of their capacity to disavow or to commit requires that consider apologies both as performance and as political action. While there remain significant questions regarding the practice of political apology – in particular, its relationship to practices of reparation, forgiveness and reconciliation – this approach can provide a framework with which to best consider them.
Keywords Political Apologies  Canada  Australia  Indigenous Peoples  Historical Injustice  Colonialism
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Just Pretending: Political Apologies for Historical Injustice and Vice’s Tribute to Virtue.Mathias Thaler - 2012 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 15 (3):259-278.
Apologies.Luc Bovens - 2008 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 108 (1pt3):219-239.
The Categorical Apology.Nick Smith - 2005 - Journal of Social Philosophy 36 (4):473–496.
Apologizing for Who I Am.Glen Pettigrove & Jordan Collins - 2011 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 28 (2):137-150.
Moral Functions of Public Apologies.Kathleen Gill - 2007 - The Proceedings of the Twenty-First World Congress of Philosophy 1:105-110.
I Was Wrong.Glen Pettigrove - 2010 - Social Theory and Practice 36 (2):355-362.


Added to PP index

Total views
651 ( #5,597 of 2,271,604 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
112 ( #4,625 of 2,271,604 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature