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Volume 40, Number 1 (2015)

Official Apology, Creative Remembrances, and Management of the Air India Tragedy

November 30, 2015


On the 25th anniversary of the Air India bombings, June 23, 2010, Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered an apology at a commemorative ceremony in Toronto on behalf of the federal government to those who lost loved ones on Air India Flight 182. Yet even while pointing to an apparent crisis in multiculturalism, the text of the apology, which is analyzed here, does not put the Canadian state’s official multiculturalism policy into question. In seeking to offer redress, the official apology in effect functions as a tool of the state to manage the grief and grievance of racialized minorities, even as the state works toward increased surveillance of racialized minorities. Reading the apology in conjunction with two fictional remembrances of the Air India bombings, Bharati Mukherjee’s 1988 short story “The Management of Grief” and Anita Rau Badami’s 2006 novel Can You Hear the Nightbird Call?, this essay addresses the politics of official apology/official multiculturalism. Where the apology seeks to orient the Air India families away from dwelling in the past and toward the future, these fictional texts insist on opening up the past. Demonstrating the pressure on racialized minorities to civilly manage their grief and hide their grief, they trouble the state’s framing of the Air India tragedy as an exceptional or aberrant event in Canadian multiculturalism.