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June 11, 2008

Pt 1: Apologies - On June 11, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood up in the House of Commons and apologized to aboriginal Canadians who were sent to residential schools. For more than a century, the federal government funded the schools as part of a system of forced assimilation. And for many of the people who endured them, the apology was a long time coming.

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Pt 2: What's the Difference? - Here at The Current, we've often weighed over the age-old question, "what's the difference between Canadians and Americans?"

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Pt 3: Iraqi-Canadian In Court - Alaa Mohammad Ali is a dual Canadian and Iraqi citizen with more than one dubious distinction: a civilian facing a United States court martial in Iraq, the subject of a precedent-setting military prosecution, and the first person to be tried under a law passed by the US Congress back in 2006.

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Satire

It's Wednesday, June 11th.

CBC Sports is still reeling after losing the rights to the Hockey Night in Canada theme song to rival CTV.

Currently, as a gesture of good faith, CTV has offered up an alternative.

Music: Yackity-Sax

Yup, that'll work.

This is The Current.


Apologies

Former Residential School Student

On June 11, 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood up in the House of Commons and apologized to aboriginal Canadians who were sent to residential schools. For more than a century, the federal government funded the schools as part of a system of forced assimilation. And for many of the people who endured them, the apology was a long time coming.

After coming to office, the Conservative Government developed a keen eye for opportunities to reconcile past wrongs. It supported a Liberal motion to officially apologize for turning away a boat of Sikhs in 1914 and it pledged millions of dollars under its "Community Historical Recognition Program" to acknowledge past wrongs from the internment of Ukrainian Canadians during World War One to the head tax on Chinese immigrants.

We at The Current thought it a good time to ask what makes an apology meaningful and why, under the right circumstances, it can be so crucial to righting a past wrong.

Charles Bobbish was sent to a residential school in northern Ontario when he was six and he joined us from Chisasibi, Quebec. Speaking to us from Canberra, Australia was Helen Moran, the Indigenous Chair of Australia's national Sorry Day committee. And Gabriel Yiu helped lead a campaign for redress for the Chinese head tax; he joined us from Vancouver.



Listen to Part One:

 

What's the Difference?


Here at The Current, we've often weighed over the age-old question, "what's the difference between Canadians and Americans?"

It's a tough one. In the first week of June 2008, Alan Abel of the National Post pulled out this quote from a book he read back in the seventies: "Canadians and Americans are indistinguishable. The only way to tell them apart is to make this statement to a Canadian." So we did just that on the streets of Toronto.

The differences between Americans and Canadians will impact Sean Cole, a radio reporter based in Boston, who decided to move to Canada. He joined us in our Toronto studio.


Listen to Part Two:

 

Iraqi-Canadian In Court

Defense Lawyer

Alaa Mohammad Ali is a dual Canadian and Iraqi citizen with more than one dubious distinction: a civilian facing a United States court martial in Iraq, the subject of a precedent-setting military prosecution, and the first person to be tried under a law passed by the US Congress back in 2006.

The law gives the U.S. military the authority to regulate the tens of thousands of civilian contractors working for it in Iraq. In part, it was meant to provide a way of prosecuting armed private security contractors alleged to have committed abuses against Iraqi civilians.

But Alaa Mohammad Ali was working for the U.S. military as a translator. And many of his defenders say his case is an odd one to pick as a precedent.

Captain Clay Compton is certainly saying that. He's the U.S. military lawyer defending Alaa Mohammad Ali and he joined us from Baghdad.


US Military Perspective

To explain why Alaa Mohammad Ali should be tried by a U.S. military court, we were joined from Baghdad by Lieutenant Colonel Kurt Takushi, chief of the Administrative Law Division with the Multi-National Corps in Iraq.


Role of Civilian Contractors in Iraq

One of the incidents that prompted the new court process in Iraq involved the private military company Blackwater. In September 2007, civilian contractors shot and killed seventeen Iraqis in Nisour Square in Baghdad. After an investigation, the U.S. military said the shootings were unjustified and unprovoked and called what happened a "criminal event." Other investigations are ongoing. But as of mid-June 2008, no one involved with the shootings had been charged.

Jeremy Scahill looked into the incident at Nisour Square and the investigations that followed it. He's also the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army and he joined us from San Diego.


Last Word - Australian Apology

June 11, 2008 was the day Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered a formal apology to aboriginal Canadians who were sent to residential schools. In February 2008, the Australian government issued a similar apology to the so-called "stolen generation" of aborigines who were taken from their families and forcibly integrated into Australian society. We closed this episode of the show with an excerpt from Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's apology.


Listen to Part Three:

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