Beware of the apology (excusatio non petita accusatio manifesta): Anige Wong, ‘A Sorry State of Affairs: Chinese Arrivants, Indigenous Hosts, and Settler Colonial Apologies;’, The Canadian Society for Study of Practical Ethics / Société Canadienne Pour L’étude De L’éthique Appliquée — SCEEA, 5, 2019


Abstract: We make and give gestures of apology every day, Canadians doubly so. Yet, grand acts of apology for more serious and sustained matters, such as historical and contemporary injustice against those with the least amount of social power, require far more ethical consideration and transformation than simply saying, “I am sorry.” Since the early 2000s, several political parties of the Canadian government have taken up the trend of making a spectacle out of national apologies to historically oppressed groups. Engaging with the concept of the settler colonial triad to theorize the histories of early Chinese arrivants’ experience, this work departs from the 2006 House of Commons apology made to Chinese Canadians on behalf of former PM Stephen Harper and explores the paradoxical operations behind state-sanctioned apologies, including the use of benevolence and hospitality as crisis management tactics resultant of Canada’s settler colonial configuration. Within this contradictory relation, those who identify as Chinese Canadian may find themselves questioning their belonging, given the historically- fraught social strategies used for the making of Canadian subjecthood. State-sanctioned apologies function to consolidate settler colonial reality and constitute a return to normalcy, which is why critical race scholars and scholars of settler colonial studies must look beyond unilateral relationships with the state.

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