September 13, 2021
Schools in Ontario are facing backlash after burning or destroying books deemed offensive to First Nations, including classic comics such as Tintin and Asterix.
The book burning, labelled an act of “flame purification”, was first undertaken in 2019 by the Providence Catholic School Board, a French-language school board in southwestern Ontario that manages 23 primary schools and seven secondary schools.
According to a report from French-language broadcaster Radio Canada, the first incident saw books ceremonially burned, with the ashes then used as fertiliser to plant a tree. Other burnings were planned but halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We bury the ashes of racism, discrimination, and stereotypes in the hope that we will grow up in an inclusive country where everyone can live in prosperity and security,” a video created by the school board for students said.
Suzy Kies, a so-called “custodian of indigenous knowledge”, defended the burning of the books, saying: “People panic over burning books, but we are talking about millions of books that have negative images of Indigenous people, that perpetuate stereotypes, that are really damaging and dangerous.”
However, more recent reports have alleged that Kies, who describes herself as “an urban Indigenous woman of Abenaki and Montagnais descent”, and has worked with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party as co-chair of its Aboriginal Commission, is actually not indigenous at all.