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Who’s sorry now? Government apologies, truth commissions, and indigenous self-determination, in Australia, Canada, Guatemala, and Peru.

Corntassel, Jeff
June 4, 2015

Source: (2008) Human Rights Review. 9(4):465-489.

Official apologies and truth commissions are increasingly utilized as mechanisms to address human rights abuses. Both are intended to transform inter-group relations by marking an end point to a history of wrongdoing and providing the means for political and social relations to move beyond that history. However, state-dominated reconciliation mechanisms are inherently problematic for indigenous communities. In this paper, we examine the use of apologies, and truth and reconciliation commissions in four countries with significant indigenous populations: Canada, Australia, Peru, and Guatemala. In each case, the reconciliation mechanism differentiated the goal of reconciliation from an indigenous self-determination agenda. The resulting state-centered strategies ultimately failed to hold states fully accountable for past wrongs and, because of this, failed to transform inter-group relations. (author’s abstract)


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