Political Apologies Archive

AHDA Political Apology

How does the act of apologizing enable societies to come to terms with their past?

Political apologies can be a powerful tool in the re-examination of a nation's history, and the significance this history has on democratic processes. The project includes a working list of political apologies throughout history that political scientist Graham Dodds has researched and compiled.

This is a working list of major political apologies and related events. The selection criteria for compiling the list are somewhat loose, but the intent is to include any and all apologies that involve states, nations, or major political groups and actors, generally for significant public wrongs. Thus, apologies by individual politicians for more narrow matters (e.g., alleged personal or criminal failings) are generally excluded.

Should you wish to add to the list, please e-mail ahda@columbia.edu.

Date of Apology Title Summary Source
23 June 2010 2010: Canada apologizes for failing to prevent the terrorist bombing of an Air India airplane in 1985

 Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologizes for failing to prevent the terrorist bombing of an Air India airplane in 1985.

Harper’s speech quoted in National Post, 23 June 2010.
4 July 2010 2010: India, state of Punjab seeks $150 million from Canada

In India, the state of Punjab seeks $150 million from Canada for refusing to let a shipload of 350 Indian passengers disembark in Vancouver in 1914, even though the passengers had paid an entry fee.

Dawson, Fabian. “Indian state seeks millions from Ottawa.” Montreal Gazette. July 4, 2010.
5 July 2010 2010: Turkey’s foreign minister demands that Israel apologize

 Turkey’s foreign minister demands that Israel apologize for a deadly raid on a ship bound for Gaza in May.  Israel indicates it has no intentions of issuing a formal apology

Villelabeitia, Ibon. “Turkey demands Israeli apology.” Montreal Gazette. July 6, 2010.
18 August 2010 2010: Canada relocating Inuit families to the High Arctic in the 1950s

The Canadian government apologizes for relocating Inuit families to the High Arctic in the 1950s.

Chai, Carmen. “Canada apologizes for ‘dark chapter.’” Montreal Gazette. August 19, 2010
31 August 2010 2010: Republican House foreign policy of the United States platform of apologies,

  In a speech at the annual convention of the American Legion, Republican House Leader Rep. John Boehner says, “The foreign policy of the United States should not be built on a platform of apologies, corrections and reset buttons.”

http://archive.legion.org/bitstream/handle/123456789/174/2010ConvPDFA.pdf?sequence=2, p54.
2 September 2010 2010: Cuba discrimination against homosexuals

Cuban leader Fidel Castro expresses regret for discrimination against homosexuals in the 1960s and 1970s.

“Castro admits marginalizing homosexuals.” Montreal Gazette. September 2, 2010.
17 September 2010 2010: Japan apology for the inhuman treatment” of U.S. POWs

At a visit by survivors, Japan’s foreign minister offered a “deep, heartfelt apology for the inhuman treatment” of U.S. POWs during World War II.  However, 60 companies that had forced the men to work did not apologize.

Associated Press. “Former US POWs Want Japanese Company Apology.” New York Times. September 17, 2010.
19 September 2010 2010: Catholic church-child abuse

At a mass in England, Pope Benedict XVI expresses sorrow over the “unspeakable crimes” of child abuse within the Roman Catholic Church.

Burns, John F. “Facing Protests in London, Pope Expresses Sorrow Over Child Sex Abuse.” New York Times. September 19, 2010.
25 September 2010 2010: China- Japan - trawler captain arrested near disputed islands

China demands that Japan apologize for detaining a trawler captain arrested near disputed islands; Japan refuses to apologize.

Fackler, Martin. “Japan Rejects Apologizing to China.” New York Times. September 26, 2010.
24 October 2010 2010: Canada, “Toronto 18” terrorist cell apologizes for actions

 In Canada, the leader of the “Toronto 18” terrorist cell apologizes for his actions.

Teotonio, Elixabeth. “Tornoto 18 terror cell ringleader to be sentenced.” www.thestar.com. October 24, 2010.
October 2010 2010: Pakistan for mistakes made by Musharraf

Exiled former Prime Minister Pervez Musharraf apologizes to Pakistan for mistakes he made in office.

“Pakistan Issues Arrest Warrant for Musharraf in Bhutto’s Killing.” New York Times. February 13, 2011.
13 November 2010 2010: France rail company expresses regret for transporting over 75,000 Jews to death camps

 France’s national rail company the SNCF expresses regret for transporting over 75,000 Jews to death camps in World War II.

Szeftel, Eve. “France’s SNCF apologizes for role in Holocaust.” Montreal Gazette. November 13, 2010.
26 November 2010 2010: Russia Stalin responsible for Katyn massacre

The Russian Duma declares Josef Stalin responsible for the “terrible tragedy” of the Katyn massacre of 22,000 Polish officers in 1940.  The Polish prime minister welcomed the resolution as a step towards reconciliation.

Zaks, Dmitry. “Stalin ordered Katyn massacre, Russia admits.” Montreal Gazette. November 27, 2010.
24 February 2010 Destruction of Africville, Nova Scotia

Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly approves an apology and compensation for the destruction of the African American community of Africville, Nova Scotia in 1969

"Halifax apologizes for razing Africville." CBC. Feb. 24, 2010.
21 January 2011 2011: Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier expresses “sadness” – but no apology – for people who suffered under his 15-year rule

Former Haitian dictator Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier expresses “sadness” – but no apology – for people who suffered under his 15-year rule.

Delva, Joseph Guyler. “’Sadness’ – but no apology.” Montreal Gazette. January 22, 2011.
21 January 2011 2011: Tunisia announces a blanket amnesty for all political groups

One week after the end of the 23-year old rule of Zine al-Abidine Ban Ali, the new government of Tunisia announces a blanket amnesty for all political groups.

Noueihed, Lin and Christian Lowe. “Tunisia grants blanket amnesty.” Montreal Gazette. January 21, 2011.
8 July 2011 2011: Braunau, Austria withdraws honorary citizenship from Adolf Hitler

The town council of Braunau, Austria withdraws honorary citizenship from Adolf Hitler, who was born in nearby Ranshofen.

Associated Press. “Hitler’s Birthplace Withdraws Honor.” New York Times. July 8, 2011.
21 September 2011 2011: Britain compensation for relatives of 14 victims of shootings in Northern Ireland

The British government announced that it will compensate relatives of 14 victims of shootings in Northern Ireland on “Bloody Sunday” in 1972.

Somaiya, Ravi. “Families of ‘Bloody Sunday’ Victims to be Compensated.” New York Times. September 22, 2011.
20 October 2011 2011: Guatemala apologizes for 1954 CIA-engineered coup against democratically-elected President Jacobo Arbenz

The Guatemalan government apologizes for 1954 CIA-engineered coup against democratically-elected President Jacobo Arbenz.

“Guatemala to apologize for coup.” Montreal Gazette. October 20, 2011.
23 November 2011 2011: Turkey apologizes for the killing of 14,000 Kurds in the 1930s

 Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey apologizes for the killing of 14,000 Kurds in the 1930s.

Arsu, Sebnem. “Turkey” Apology for ‘30s Massacres.” New York Times. November 23, 2011.