What Canada and South Africa can teach the U.S. about slavery reparations

Author Ta-Nehisi Coates, left, and actor Danny Glover, right, testify about reparation for the descendants of slaves during a hearing before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Capitol Hill on June 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Polarizing question

With several Democratic presidential candidates taking positions on the issue, the idea of reparations, always a polarizing question in the United States, may finally become a ballot-box question.

Lessons from Canada?

Canada established its Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2008, bucking critics of the restorative justice model and those who claimed that the model was better suited for “Third World” countries with weak political and judicial institutions.

Residential school survivors march to the opening ceremonies of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in Vancouver in September 2013. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Doubt and apathy

As an expert on global human rights, I have been making presentations at American universities and conferences as part of a McMaster University project called Truth Commissions and the Politics of Memory.

Democratic congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. Jackson Lee pushed for the slavery reparation hearings held on Capitol Hill in June. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

‘We elected Obama’

American opponents of reparation are too ready to dismiss the need for action. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he opposes reparations for descendants of slaves because no one currently alive was responsible for slavery.

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