In Canada, an autodafé sparks controversy


Montreal

From our correspondent

Tintin, Lucky Luke or Asterix, with the prejudices they conveyed, do they still have their place in the libraries of Canadian schools? In Ontario, the Providence Catholic School Board, a French-language school board that represents some 10,000 students in the Windsor region, made the decision. According to information revealed this week by Radio-Canada, nearly 5,000 children’s books – comics, textbooks, novels … – have disappeared from the shelves since 2019. Among them, about thirty books burned during a ceremony. The ashes – described as “racist” ashes in one video – were buried to make fertilizer.

For Lyne Cossette, spokesperson for the school board, the organization wanted with this initiative “Make a gesture of openness and reconciliation by replacing books (…) with outdated content and conveying harmful stereotypes towards First Nations, Métis and Inuit.

The initiative, revealed less than two weeks before a hotly contested federal election, is causing great discomfort in Canada. Among the books withdrawn is notably Tintin in America. According to Radio-Canada, the steering committee of the school board castigated this Hergé album in 1932 for its “Unacceptable language”, his “Erroneous information”, see his “Misrepresentation of Aboriginal people “. We see the dog Snowy “talking” in these terms of the First Nations: “Finally, here they are, these savages.

Other works, presenting crafts inspired by indigenous knowledge, were also destroyed for cause. “Cultural appropriation “.

Certain withdrawals are particularly questioning, in particular that of the novel The Indian College Affair, by Sylvie Brien, published in 2006, studied since in schools. The author tells the story of a fire in an Aboriginal residential school where the First Nations were forcibly assimilated. An even more sensitive subject since the recent discoveries of the remains of the bodies of children near these boarding schools.

Sylvie Brien is now shouting at ” censorship “ : “My book was burned while it bears witness to a reality from which the First Nations suffered, it is absurd”, she is offended. Several books have been destroyed because of the use in their pages of the word Indian to designate members of the First Nations. Sylvie Brien says that her plot takes place in 1920, she had to use the terms of the time.

The case crept into the electoral campaign. During a televised debate on Wednesday, September 8, all party leaders denounced the “auto-da-fe”. The day before, Yves-François Blanchet, candidate of the Bloc Québécois, said that we were not fighting “Against racism by erasing the history of racism”. He himself says he understood the concept in his childhood by reading the album The Black Smurfs, by Peyo, published in 1963.

Struggling in the polls, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said ” uncomfortable “ with burning books, while supporting the importance of listening to what First Nations have to say. You still have to know who is speaking on their behalf. Suzy Kies, a “Keeper of indigenous knowledge »Which piloted the committee of the Catholic school board of Providence, at the origin of the destruction of the books, thus has no indigenous origin over seven generations, according to Radio-Canada. Faced with the outcry caused by this set of revelations, the members of the school board, “Deeply troubled and worried”, said they regretted “The negative impact Of this case.

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