Political Apologies

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.

Displaying 701 - 725 of 755
Date of Apology Title Summary Source
24 April 2017 ISIS apology to Israel

Former Israeli defense minister Moshe Ya’alon reveals that the Islamic State (Daesh) apologized to Israel for opening fire on an Israeli unit in the Syrian Golan Heights in November.

Gross, Judah Ari. “Ex-defense minister says IS ‘apologized’ to Israel for November clash.” Times of Israel. April 24, 2017.
26 May 2017 UN regrets Roma poisoning

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres expresses “profound regret” for the poisoning of hundreds of ethnic Roma living in UN camps in Kosovo.

Ramzy, Austin. “U.N. Offers Regret but No Compensation for Kosovo Poisoning Victims.” New York Times. May 26, 2017.
1 July 2017 Canada apologizes to Omar Kadr.

The Canadian government formally apologizes to Omar Khadr for abuses he suffered at the U.S. military detention center in Guantanamo Bay.

Fife, Robert and Jeff Gray. “Federal government officially apologizes to Omar Khadr.” Globe and Mail. September 14, 2017.
10 July 2017 IRA sorry for 1974 bombing.

Former IRA bomb maker Michael Hayes apologizes for the November 1974 attack on two pubs in Birmingham that killed 21 people.  (Six innocent men were wrongly convicted for the attack.)

Magee, Kevin. “Birmingham pub bombings: IRA suspect Hayes issues apology.” BBC News. July 10, 2017.
19 August 2017 Montreal police apologize for gay raids.

Montreal police chief Philippe Pichet apologizes for raids on gay bars from the 1960s through the 1990s.

Loewen, Claire. “Montreal police apologize for raids on gay bars between ‘60s and ‘90s.” Montreal Gazette. August 19, 2017.
7 September 2017 Pope urges peace, not revenge.

Pope Francis urges Colombians to reject revenge and embrace a peace accord with the rebel group FARC after a half-century of war.

Casey, Nicholas and Susan Abad. “Pope Francis Urges Colombia to Seize ‘Second Chance.’” New York Times. September 7, 2017.
28 September 2017 Canada to apologize for rejecting refugee boat in 1939.

Canada indicates that it will apologize for turning away 900 German Jews on the boat MS St. Louis in 1939.  The boat was also rejected by Cuba and the U.S. and returned to Europe, where most of the passengers died in the Holocaust.

Levitz, Stephanie. “Apology Coming for St. Louis.” Montreal Gazette. September 28, 2017.
6 October 2017 Canada to pay 'Scoop' children

The Canadian federal government agrees to pay $800 million to 20,000 victims of the 1960s “Scoop” policy of placing indigenous children with non-native families.

Perkel, Colin. “‘60s Scoop victims to get up to $800M.” Montreal Gazette. October 6, 2017.
6 October 2017 Spain apology for Catalan violence.

The Spanish government apologizes for police violence during the Catalan independence referendum.

Jones, Sam. “Spain: government apologises for policing of Catalan referendum.” The Guardian. October 6, 2017.
26 October 2017 Canada to pay torture victims

The Canadian federal government gives $31 million to three Canadians tortured as suspected terrorists in Syria after information was shared with foreign agencies.

"Torture victims receive $31 million.” National Post. October 26, 2017.
29 October 2017 Scotland apology to gays.

Scotland apologizes to all men convicted of gay sexual offenses and enables them to have their criminal convictions removed.

Hopkins, Steven. “Nicola Sturgeon To Issue Apology From Scottish Government Over Historical Gay Sex Convictions.” HuffPost. October 29, 2017.
24 November 2017 Canada apologizes for residential schools in one province.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologizes to survivors of Canada’s residential schools program for Indigenous peoples in Newfoundland and Labrador. (These students were omitted from an apology in 2008 because their schools were not initially run by the Canadian government, as Newfoundland did not become part of Canada until 1949.)

Barlett, Geoff. “Tearful Justin Trudeau apologizes to N.L. residential school survivors” CBC News. November 24, 2017.
28 November 2017 Denmark apology to Ghana for slavery

Denmark apologizes to Ghana for its historical role in the slave trade.

Kiunguyu, Kylie. “Ghana: Danish Government Apologizes to Ghana for Slave Trade.” Allafrica.com November 26, 2017.
29 November 2017 Canada apologizes for gay purge.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologizes for decades of discrimination by the federal government against the LGBTQ2 community, including the firing of federal employees in a “gay purge.”

“Victims of ‘gay purge’ get federal apology.” Montreal Gazette. November 29, 2017.
1 December 2017 Pope apologizes to Rohingya

Pope Francis asks Rohingya Muslim refugees for forgiveness for the difficulties they endured in Myanmar and for “the indifference of the world” to their plight.

“Pope calls Myanmar refugees by Rohingya name.” National Post. December 1, 2017.
13 January 2018 Africa asks Trump to apologize

The African Union and African ambassadors to the United Nations demand an apology from U.S. President Donald Trump over his characterization of African countries.

Gaouette, Nicole and David McKenzie. “African Union, African UN envoys demand Trump apology. CNN. January 13, 2018.
17 January 2018 Pope begs forgiveness for priests' sexual abuses.

In Chile, Pope Francis begs forgiveness for the “irreparable damage” done to children sexually abused by priests

“Pope Francis Apologizes Amidst Protests, Church Burnings.” Montreal Gazette. January 17, 2018.
29 January 2018 Israel apologizes to Jordan for 2 deaths

Israel expresses regret to Jordan over the killing of two Jordanians in 2017.

6 February 2018 Mercedes-Benz apology to China

The Mercedes-Benz company apologizes to China for using a quote from the Dalai Lama

MacDonald, Joe. “Mercedes in China apologizes for quoting Dalai Lama abroad.” Financial Post. February 6, 2018.
9 March 2018 Poland apologizes for Anti-Semitic purge.

Polish President Andrzej Duda offers a qualified apology for Poland’s anti-Semitic purge in 1968, in which 13,000 Jewish Poles were expelled. Duda’s remarks followed criticism of a bill banning speech that accuses Poland of complicity in Nazi actions.

McAuley, James. “Poland’s president offers a non-apology apology for ’68 anti-Semitic purge. (The ‘Holocaust bill’ is still on the books.)” Washington Post. March 9, 2018.
26 March 2018 Canada apologizes for deaths of First Nation chiefs.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologizes to members of the Tsilhqot’in Nation for the hanging of six chiefs in 1864.

Omand, Geordon. “Trudeau apologizes to B.C.’s Tsilqot’in for hanging of six chiefs in 1864 ‘Chilcotin War.’” National Post. May 26, 2019.
27 March 2018 Pope will not apologize for Canadian residential schools.

Responding to a request by Canada’s 2017 Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Pope Francis indicates that he will not apologize for the role of the Roman Catholic Church in Canada’s infamous residential schools policy for Indigenous peoples.

Rabson, Mia. “Pope Francis turns down reconciliation commission’s request for residential schools apology.” National Post. March 27, 2018.
11 April 2018 Pope admits errors in Chilean sex abuse scandal.

Pope Francis admits that he made “grave errors” in dealing with a clerical sexual abuse scandal in Chile and invites the victims to come to Rome so he can beg their forgiveness.

“Pope Francis admits ‘grave error’ in discrediting Chilean church sexual abuse victim.” The Guardian. April 11, 2018.
17 April 2018 British apology for deporting migrants.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May apologizes to 12 Caribbean heads of government for the deportation and mistreatment of Caribbean “Windrush” immigrants who came to the U.K. between 1948 and 1971.

Walker, Peter and Amelia Gentleman. “May apologises for treatment of Windrush citizens.” The Guardian. April 17, 2018.
19 April 2018 Canadian bishops debate call for papal apology.

Canadian bishops argue against a parliamentary motion that would call for a papal apology for the church’s role in the Canadian system of residential schools for Indigenous people, as recommended by a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, after the Pope demurred

Platt, Brian. “Bishops push back on apology motion.” Montreal Gazette. April 19, 2018.