Justin Trudeau likes apologies.
He does. According to the BBC, the Liberal leader has issued quite a few formal apologies since he became Prime Minister in 2015.
The first one happened a few months after his big election win. Trudeau apologized to the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren – and the great-great-grandchildren – of the S.S. Komagata Maru. That Japanese vessel was carrying nearly 400 Sikh, Muslim, and Hindu passengers who were denied entry into Canada, more than a Century ago, because of their racial origins.
When they returned to India, the Punjabis were shot or imprisoned. Trudeau called the incident “a stain on Canada’s past,” which was true. It was.
In 2017, Trudeau made a tearful apology to the Innu, Inuit and NunatuKavut people of Newfoundland and Labrador who had been forced into residential schools. “Saying that we are sorry today is not enough. It will not undo the harm that was done to you,” Trudeau told the descendants of indigenous victims – not too long before he and his PMO would go on to energetically “do harm” to the indigenous leader named Jody Wilson-Raybould.
Defaming her, demeaning her, kicking her out of his political party. Because she wouldn’t do what he told her to do.
But never mind. There were other apologies to be made.
Trudeau again got teary-eyed in 2017, when he apologized to LGBT people for what he called “state-sponsored, systematic oppression and rejection.” Members of the federal public service, its foreign service and members of both the military and RCMP were all discriminated against – and which Trudeau called “nothing short of a witch-hunt.” It was, it was.
In 2018, Trudeau apologized for Canada’s shameful treatment of nearly 1,000 Jews aboard the M.S. St. Louis. The Jews had been attempting to escape the Holocaust, but Prime Minister Mackenzie King refused to permit them entry. The St. Louis was forced to return to Europe, where 254 of the passengers were slaughtered in the Holocaust.
“We are sorry for the callousness of Canada’s response,” Trudeau said, and he was right to express regret. “We are sorry for not apologizing sooner.”
Another one came in March of this year, when the Prime Minister apologized for what he called the “colonial” and “purposeful” mistreatment of Inuit people with tuberculosis. That statement came in the same week that Trudeau adamantly refused to apologize to Canadians for something else – for obstructing justice in the LavScam affair.
And so on and so on. Justin Trudeau’s father, Pierre, regularly refused to make such apologies when he was Prime Minister. In 1984, when pressed by Brian Mulroney to apologize to Japanese-Canadians who had been interned during World War Two, Pierre Trudeau refused. “I do not think the purpose of a government is to right the past,” Trudeau told Mulroney. “It cannot rewrite history. It is our purpose to be just in our time.”
He could have added another reason, one that would have later had particular relevance to his eldest son: when you apologize a lot, people will expect you to continue to issue apologies – and particularly when it is right and just to do so.
But, this week, Justin Trudeau wouldn’t. He refused.
The occasion was the proposed apology to Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, whose life and career had been effectively destroyed by the aforementioned Justin Trudeau and Trudeau PMO.
Conservative Deputy Leader Lisa Raitt, supported by the New Democrats, rose in the House to ask that Members of Parliament “recognize Vice-Admiral Mark Norman for his decades of loyal service to Canada, express regret for the personal and professional hardships he endured as a result of his failed prosecution and apologize to him and his family for what they experienced during their legal conflict with government.”
Everyone was in favour of Raitt’s motion. Every Liberal MP voted for it.
But not Justin Trudeau. He had slipped out of the Commons chamber mere moments before the vote. And he didn’t come back to support the apology to Mark Norman, either. He had a prior commitment in Hamilton, his staff claimed – even though he still had several hours to get there. Was he driving himself? Who knows.
What we do know, however, is that Justin Trudeau is quite fond of apologies when he is not the wrongdoer. When the apology relates to the long-ago sins of other Canadian leaders – even his own father – Justin Trudeau is the most apologetic guy around.
But when it comes to his own sins – for his shameful treatment of Jody Wilson-Raybould, or Jane Philpott, or Celina Caesar-Chavannes, or Mark Norman – well, with those people, Justin Trudeau isn’t as forthcoming.
As we all teach our kids, apologies don’t work if they’re conditional. They don’t work if they’re insincere. And they don’t work if the sinner isn’t confessing his own sin.
And, in Justin Trudeau’s case, that happens a lot.