Schools of the Providence Catholic School Board destroyed nearly 5,000 children’s books on Indigenous peoples in Canada. According to Radio-Canada, which revealed the information on Tuesday, September 7, this grouping of schools, which brings together 30 French-speaking establishments in the southwest of the province of Ontario, has eliminated these works in a process of “reconciliation with the First Nations ”. The school group welcomes more than 10,000 students.
In 2019, around thirty books banned from the libraries of these schools were burned and the ashes were used as fertilizer for a planted tree to transform “the negative into the positive”. “We are burying the ashes of racism, discrimination and stereotypes in the hope that we will grow up in an inclusive country where all can live in prosperity and security,” says a video for students. Other similar ceremonies should have taken place, but they were postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Tintin, Lucky Luke and Asterix banned
Not all of these books are meant to be burned, although that was the original idea. The majority of them have been or need to be recycled, a spokesperson for the Conseil scolaire catholique Providence told the Canadian media. The latter specifies that the works withdrawn from the libraries contained “obsolete and inappropriate content”.
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Among the books banned from the shelves, comics such as certain tomes by Tintin (Tintin in America, The temple of the sun), by Lucky Luke or Asterix and the Indians. Encyclopedic works on indigenous populations are also part of this sorting. A total of 155 different works have been withdrawn, 152 have been allowed to remain in place and 193 are currently under evaluation. A total of 4,716 books were withdrawn from school board libraries in 30 schools, for an average of 157 books per school.
In a document obtained by Radio-Canada, the reasons for the withdrawal of these works are detailed. For example, for Tintin in America, published in 1932, the School Board considers that this comic contains “unacceptable language”, “erroneous information”, a “negative portrayal of indigenous peoples” and “misrepresentation of indigenous peoples in the drawings”.
“Censorship” according to banned authors
To select the books to be withdrawn, the schools relied on a committee made up of several people, including Suzy Kies, who created the video presenting the process to students. The latter is presented as an indigenous “knowledge keeper”, and has also been co-chair of the Indigenous Peoples Commission of the Liberal Party of Canada, that of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, since 2016.
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While some of these books are dated, recent books have also been withdrawn. None of the authors contacted by Radio-Canada was made aware of this measure and some denounce censorship. Asked by the Canadian media, the philosopher specializing in education Normand Baillargeon believes “that the time has come to rethink what we teach about Aboriginal history, it is normal and healthy”, but “that we burning books seems extremely disturbing to me, it has historical overtones that I don’t like at all. ”
For its part, the Ontario Ministry of Education specifies that it is up to each school board to choose the books in its libraries. He also refuted any participation of its members in the committee set up by the Providence Catholic School Board.