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Expectations Among Aboriginal Peoples in Canada Regarding the Potential Impacts of a Government Apology

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Abstract

After continued pressure, the Canadian government offered an apology to Aboriginal peoples for its role in the Indian Residential School (IRS) system, where children were removed from their families in an effort to assimilate the Aboriginal population. Although the apology was sought after, it was unclear what Aboriginal peoples expected it to accomplish in relation to their treatment and quality of life within Canada. Quantitative and qualitative analyses revealed that, although Aboriginal adults (N = 164) felt the apology could potentially be a first step towards improved relations with the government and non-Aboriginal Canadians, expectations that such changes would actually come to fruition were generally pessimistic. In exploring predictors of such expectations, path analysis indicated that those who had been intimately impacted by IRSs reported greater perceived discrimination that, in turn, was associated with lowered intergroup trust and forgiveness. Those who perceived high levels of discrimination were less likely to expect changes following the apology, which was mediated by the low levels of intergroup trust and forgiveness towards the government, but not towards non-Aboriginal Canadians. Essentially, an apology was not enough to elicit hope for improved intergroup relations, especially when perceptions of continued discrimination impeded the restoration of intergroup trust and forgiveness.

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