Reconciling Historical Injustices


Reconciling Historical Injustices and the Role of Public


Apology and Forgiveness


Presented by Hart House, Multi Faith Centre, Anti -Racism and Cultural Diversity Office, Hillel @ U of T


Image of a bird in handsDetails: Following a successful first term of events in the Wounds into Wisdom series that allowed for a deeper investigation around the complexities of forgiveness and reconciliation, Hart House and its presenting partners continue their explorations into contested histories, social conflicts and a way forward that addresses injustices in meaningful ways. The practice of forgiveness including its connection to restorative justice, public apology, redress and reparations plays a significant role in efforts to reconcile historic wrongs, resolve conflicts and to attain justice, whether committed at the individual or institutional level.



When: Wed., Feb. 5, 2014, 6:30–8:30 pm
Where: East Common Room, Hart House
Cost: Free. Register online at Eventbrite.


In our second panel we set out to explore and experience in what ways forgiveness affects settlement issues and the experience in policy making, government apologies or redress agreements. Using a uniquely Canadian lens this panel will investigate the struggle for minority recognition and inclusion in Canada for the groups who came to settle in Canada as well as for those who already had far reaching roots in the country. This panel provides an opportunity to bear witness to the struggle for belonging for some groups and in other cases will revive and discuss the unsuccessful journey to Canada and give voice to those who are no longer here to speak for themselves. How has forgiveness and reconciliation played a role in public policy as well as in the lives of individuals, families and communities for some of these groups?


Our featured guests will cover the following areas in Canada’s contentious and oft forgotten history:

  • The Komagata Maru (celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2013)
  • Africville
  • Chinese–Canadian Recognition and Redress Agreement
  • The SS. St Louis


The panel will be moderated by Tony Chambers, Director of the Centre for the Study of Students in Post-secondary Education and Associate Professor of Higher Education at OISE. It aims to be a compelling re-telling of the stories that comprise our collective Canadian history and lend legitimacy and value to the meta narrative of Canadian history, a history that must be inclusive of all voices, stories and sacrifices that have helped to shape the country and also provide lessons for the future.


More information on the Wounds into Wisdom series >>


Photo of Tony Chambers

Tony Chambers | Moderator

Professor Chambers Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education at OISE/UT, joined the University of Toronto in 2005 as the Associate Vice Provost, Students and Assistant Professor after holding various academic and senior administrative positions in the United States, most recently at the University of Michigan where he was associate director of the National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good and adjunct associate professor in the Center for the Study of Higher and Post-secondary Education.




Photo of Frank Bialystok

Professor Frank Bialystok

Since 1988, Dr. Bialystok has been an education consultant for several ministries, boards of education and Jewish organizations, specializing in anti-racist education. Frank Bialystok’s fields of interest are the Holocaust, the Canadian Jewish Community and Polish Jews in the twentieth century. He is a sessional lecturer at York University and the University of Toronto and adjunct Professor of History at the University of Waterloo. In 2001 he was the inaugural scholar in residence in Canadian Jewish Studies at Concordia University. Dr. Bialystok has lectured at academic conferences and universities in eight countries on four continents and speaks in academic and community settings on a regular basis. His doctoral dissertation won the Tannenbaum Prize in Canadian Jewish History and was nominated for the Governor General’s Award in non-fiction.

Photo of Avvy Go

Avvy Go

Avvy Go is the Clinic Director of Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic. She received her B.A. in economics and management studies from the University of Waterloo, LL.B. from the University of Toronto, and LL.M. from Osgoode Hall Law School. Since her call to the Bar in 1991, she has worked exclusively in the legal clinic system, serving the legal needs of low income individuals and families, most of whom are non-English speaking immigrants and refugees. Avvy is one of the recipients of the 2008 City of Toronto’s William P. Hubbard Award for Race Relations. In 2012, Avvy received the Lawyer of Distinction Award from the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers. In February 2011, Avvy was appointed to the Advisory Council of the Canadian Human Rights Museum and was appointed to the Community Council of the Law Commission of Ontario in December 2011.

Photo of Joe Sealy

Joe Sealy

Joe Sealy has enjoyed a highly successful career as a musician, composer, recording artist and radio broadcaster. His 1997 Juno Award winning Africville Suite inspired Ron Foley Mac Donald of the Halifax Daily News to write “ this may be the most important jazz album released in Canada this year.” Joe has presented the Africville Suite in concert venues and at music festivals across Canada as well as Denmark, Norway and the United States. Joe Sealy has released four albums with his musical partner Paul Novotny and has performed at premier jazz events around the world. He hosts his own weekly show on Jazz FM, now in its fifth season, and holds producer, composer and musical director credits to his name.

Photo of Ali Kazimi

Ali Kazimi

Ali Kazimi is a documentary filmmaker whose research interests include race, migration, history and memory, with a particular interest in South Asia and Canada. He also has a keen interest in emerging and cutting-edge digital image technologies, and is a collaborative researcher in the interdisciplinary Future Cinema Lab in the Faculty of Fine Arts at York University. Professor Kazimi’s most recent publication is the book Undesirables: White Canada and the Komagata Maru (Douglas & McIntyre, 2012). Professor Kazimi’s films have been shown at festivals around the world, winning more than 30 national and international awards and a host of nominations. Alongside his creative roles, Professor Kazimi has guest-lectured internationally and been invited to serve as a juror for numerous national and international film.



About Africville

For over 150 years Africville was home to hundreds of individuals and families who settled there, the majority of whom were landowners, some could trace their roots in Nova Scotia back to the late 1700’s. Africville was a vibrant, self-sustaining community that thrived despite the harshest opposition. After a history of more than 100 years, The African Nova Scotian community of Africville, located on the northern shore of Halifax was destroyed to make way for the industrial development in the 1960’s. In 2010 the people of Africville finally received an apology from Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly for the destruction of their community nearly 40 years before. The apology was supported by allocation of land and 3 million for the construction of a replica of the church that had stood at the geographic and emotional heart of Africville for the loss of their community. (


About Komagata Maru

On May 23, 1914, the Komagata Maru, a ship carrying 376 South Asians was refused from docking in Vancouver, British Columbia. The incident brings to light the discriminatory Canadian exclusion laws, in particular, the Asian Exclusion Act, which prescribed that for a ship to dock in Canada, it would have to make a continuous journey from its origin directly to Canada. The Japanese ship sailed from Punjab, India via Hong Kong to Vancouver where it arrived with its passengers comprising 340 Sikhs, 24 Muslims and 12 Hindus, all British Subjects, on board. The ship was surrounded by immigration boats to enforce the “continuous journey law and its passengers were not permitted to leave the ship. Amidst the actions by the federal and local governments, anti-Asian protestors and the refusal of the passengers to heed the orders, the ship was detained for 2 months at port under deplorable conditions. On July 21, 1914, with the Royal Canadian Navy’s ship the HMCS’s called in, the Komagata Maru was forced to leave the city. All, but 20 of its passengers who already had resident status and was allowed to disembark, had to leave with the ship. It returned to Calcutta, India where it was met with resistance from a British gunboat and riots ensued -many passengers were killed, forced into imprisonment or sent back to their villages, only a handful escaped. On May 23, 2008, the Government of British Columbia, through unanimous motion in the legislature, “… apologized for the events of of May 23, 1914 when 376 passengers of the Komagatu Maru were denied entry by Canada” (Government of B.C.).


About the Chinese–Canadian Recognition and Redress Agreement

The Chinese Canadian Recognition and Redress Agreement marked the acknowledgement and recognition of the inherent discrimination and injustice of the Chinese Head Tax levy enacted after the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in 1885 and enforced by Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923 as a means of discouraging Chinese immigration to Canada. Many risked their lives were separated from their families and many others died while building Canada’s railway. In 1947 the act was officially repealed and organized activism in the Chinese community began in earnest resulting in the government of Canada’s official apology and Redress by Stephen Harper in 2006.


About the SS St. Louis

In 1939 the SS St. Louis and her Jewish refugees became one of the last ships to leave Nazi Germany, originally set sail for Cuba however, being denied entry by the country’s pro-fascist leadership, the ship attempted to land in Florida. Meeting with hostile American forces indifferent to the Jewish plight, the SS St Louis was not permitted entry and made its final attempt to land in Canada just outside of Halifax Harbour. Sadly rampant anti-Semitism from powerful officials prevailed and the ill-fated boat was eventually forced back to Germany where its 937 Jewish passengers perished in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. The government of Canada has recognized and its injustice and blighted history with the Jewish community by a financial commitment towards funding for educational programmes about the St. Louis’s tragic story and continued pursuits of equity and inclusion.

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