Book Burning in Canada

"a gesture of reconciliation"

Nearly 5,000 children's books on Aboriginal people were destroyed

A great literary clean-up took place in the libraries of the Providence Catholic School Board, which brings together 30 French-language schools throughout southwestern Ontario. Nearly 5,000 children's books on Aboriginal people were destroyed in an effort to reconcile with the First Nations, Radio-Canada has learned.1

The “flame purification” ceremony was held in 2019 by the Conseil scolaire catholique Providence, which oversees elementary and secondary schools in southwestern Ontario. The books were burned for “educational purposes” and then the ashes were used as fertilizer to plant a tree.2

“It is a gesture of reconciliation with the First Nations, and a gesture of openness towards the other communities present in the school and our society.” Lyne Cossette, spokesperson for the Providence Catholic School Board.3

Among the books burned were:

  • Tintin in America

  • Les Esquimaux

  • The Conquest of the West : Native Americans, Settlers and Settlers

  • Living Like the American Indians 

  • Laflèche (comic)

  • Trafic chez les Hurons

  • The Indian College Affair

  • The Son of the Hurons

  • Pocahontas (taken from the Disney cartoon)

  • Indian Winter

The book burning took place with advice of “Knowledge Keeper” Suzy Kies, urban Aboriginal of Abenaki and Montagnais descent [but turns out, not really] 4

On September 8, 2021 the destruction of books was suspended. The discovery that the Indigenous “knowledge keeper” who accompanied the school board, Suzy Kies, is not Indigenous accelerated management's decision.5 Interview below with Suzy Kies.

2

Dawson, Tyler (2021). Book burning at Ontario francophone schools as 'gesture of reconciliation' denounced. National Post. (September 7, 2021).

3

Ibid., Gerbert.

4

Gerbert, Thomas (September 8, 2021). Books destroyed: the “keeper of knowledge” is not Aboriginal. Radio-Canada.

5

Gerbert, Thomas (September 8, 2021) “Providence School Board suspends destruction of books after uproar.” Radio-Canada.