A group of 30 Catholic schools in Canada withdrew from their libraries and burned more than 4,700 books to put an end to “racism, discrimination and stereotypes, in the hope of growing up in an inclusive country”. The decision was repudiated by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The Providence School Board – which brings together schools in the southwestern province of Ontario – led the initiative and explained that it was an effort to reconcile with the “first nations” given that the texts “had outdated or inappropriate content” about the indigenous population.
Among the burned books are Tintin tomes -Tintín in America and The Temple of the Sun-, Lucky Luke, Asterix -The great journey-, Pocahontas and encyclopedias on indigenous populations. The ashes of the texts were used as fertilizer to plant trees.
School Board spokeswoman Lyne Cossette justified the burning and said that “many Aboriginal intellectuals and elders participated and were consulted at various stages, from conceptualization, evaluation of the books and the idea of planting trees with the ashes.”
In dialogue with the National Post newspaper, Cossette explained that the “Give back to the earth” project was intended to represent “openness and reconciliation”, and to replace books with outdated content with negative stereotypes by other with “positive and inclusive messages”.
“We regret that we did not secure a more appropriate plan that was offensive to some members of the community.. We sincerely regret the negative impact of this initiative, which is intended to be a gesture of reconciliation, ”said the spokeswoman.
The initiative began in 2019, but has now transcended and garnered criticism from Canadian political leaders, including Justin Trudeau.
“On a personal level, I would never agree to a book burning,” said the prime minister. and noted that “it is not up to non-indigenous people to tell indigenous people how they should feel.”
Yves-François Blanchet, leader of the Bloc Québécois social democratic party, aligned himself with Trudeau: “We expose ourselves to history, we explain it, we demonstrate how society has evolved or should evolve.”
The book burning takes place a few months after the discovery of a mass grave with the remains of 215 indigenous children in an old Catholic school that was destined to “integrate” the original peoples of the country.
Trudeau demanded that the Catholic Church and Pope Francis publicly apologize for the abuses suffered by indigenous children in Canada.