(Jan. 2, 2020) On December 18, 2019, the New Zealand Parliament passed historic legislation that pardons Rua KÄnana, a pacifist religious prophet from the Tuhoe iwi (tribe) who was convicted in August 1916 of “moral resistance” to a police attempt to arrest him in February 1916. In April 1916, around seventy armed police officers came to the religious community established at Maungapohatu to arrest Rua. This led to an exchange of gunfire in which Rua’s son and another young man who lived at the community were killed. Police have also been accused of other abuses during the raid, including rape. Following his arrest and subsequent conviction, Rua spent 18 months in prison. The “wartime arrest and prosecution of Rua KÄnana remains one of the most controversial episodes in New Zealand’s history.”
The bill, Te Pire kia Unuhia te Hara kai Runga i a Rua KÄnana/Rua KÄnana Pardon Bill 2019, “gives effect to the agreement of 9 September 2017 between the Crown and NgÄ Toenga o NgÄ Tamariki a Iharaira me NgÄ Uri o Maungap[o]hatu Charitable Trust to provide a statutory pardon for Rua KÄnana.” The agreement followed the Waitangi Tribunal’s finding, in its report on its Te Urewera district inquiry, that police used excessive force against the Maungapohatu community and that the arrest of Rua KÄnana was unlawful at the time due to being effected on a Sunday.
The bill, which is written in both English and the MÄori language, consists of a preamble, historical background, Crown acknowledgments, a Crown apology, and the pardon itself, as well as a declaration to restore “the character, mana [prestige/status, etc.], and reputation of Rua KÄnana, his uri [descendants], and NgÄ Toenga o NgÄ Tamariki o Iharaira Faith.” An “unusual element” of the bill is the inclusion, in the preamble, of the lyrics of a song that Rua composed while he was in prison.
The Crown apology in clause 8 of the bill reads as follows:
The Crown unreservedly apologises to the descendants of Rua KÄnana and NgÄ Toenga o ngÄ Tamariki a Iharaira for—
(a) the lasting damage to the character, mana, and reputation of Rua KÄnana, his uri, and NgÄ Toenga o NgÄ Tamariki o Iharaira:
(b) the deep hurt, shame, and stigma suffered by them as a result of the invasion of Maungap[o]hatu.
Around 200 descendants of Rua KÄnana attended the final reading of the bill in the Parliament.