Last week the city of Philadelphia issued an apology to Jackie Robinson. After breaking the colour barrier in major league baseball in 1947, Mr. Robinson endured racist taunts, particularly from Philadelphians. In one game the Phillies’ manager shouted at Mr. Robinson to “go back to the cotton fields.”
Mr. Robinson played the 1946 season in AAA with the Montreal Royals. No apology has been necessary from that city. Montreal treated Mr. Robinson with warmth and respect. It’s kind of strange that Philadelphia waited so long to express its regret. Mr. Robinson has been dead for 44 years. But decades-later apologies from governing bodies are increasingly common.
Canada has become one of the major forgiveness seekers for sins of the ancestors. Ottawa has made apologies for residential schools, the Chinese head tax, Japanese internment and other shameful deeds.
We were at it again last week for something that happened 102 years ago on the British Columbia coast. Our Prime Minister said he would offer a full apology to our Sikh population for a 1914 immigration department decision to turn back a boat, the Komagata Maru, with several hundred Sikhs aboard. Nineteen passengers were subsequently killed in skirmishes with the British when the ship went on to Calcutta.
This apology is small fare compared to the one likely coming next. As was revealed recently, Ottawa is looking into making a sweeping apology to hundreds, possibly thousands of government officials who lost their jobs or who faced discrimination in the workplace as a result of being gay.
The apology, not yet certain but likely, would cover the entire Cold War period from the late 1940s to the 1990s. The Justice Department is co-ordinating an investigation involving several departments. Bureaucrats are thus far having difficulty determining specific numbers.