Workbook recasts dispossession of First Nations peoples as voluntary
Text sparks outrage on social media for ignoring ‘suffering and injustice’
‘We know that our Complete Canadian Curriculum Grade 3 does not provide an accurate depiction of the interaction between Canada’s First Nations and European settlers.’ Photograph: Canadian Press/Rex/Shutterstock
A Canadian publishing company has recalled a children’s workbook after critics accused it of “whitewashing” the treatment of First Nations following the arrival of European settlers in Canada.
The workbook, designed as supplementary material for school-age children, recasts the dispossession of First Nations peoples as voluntary, with no mention of lands not signed away through treaty or government policies that sought to starve First Nations peoples in order to move them to reserves.
Under the heading Moving Out, the book claims: “When the European settlers arrived, they needed land to live on. The First Nations peoples agreed to move to different areas to make room for the new settlements.”
The First Nations peoples moved to reserves, the workbook later notes, “where they could live undisturbed by the hustle and bustle of the settlers”.
The passages – which surfaced on social media this week – sparked anger across Canada.
“Please do not gloss over the way the white Europeans stole the land from the First Nations people and inflicted terrible murders and damage to them,” one commenter told the publisher on Facebook. Another noted, “You need to stop this white washing immediately! Tell the truth! Both the good old US of A and Canada committed heinous acts against Native Americans.”
Others drew links between the misinformation and Canada’s fledgling efforts to confront its historical mistreatment of the country’s indigenous peoples. “This is why the majority of people are so clueless when it comes to the reality of the suffering, oppression and injustice that First Nations (Aboriginal) Peoples have been subjected to for decades … How are people supposed to begin trying to heal when the future leaders of our country are being exposed to this nonsense?” said one Facebook post.
The publisher of the workbook, The Popular Book Company, initially responded to concerns by saying that it would revise the section in upcoming reprints. On Tuesday, after one of the country’s largest book retailers said it would remove the book from its shelves, the company issued an immediate recall.
“We know that our Complete Canadian Curriculum Grade 3 does not provide an accurate depiction of the interaction between Canada’s First Nations and European settlers,” the publisher said in a statement.
The publisher, who did not reply to a request for comment, said in the statement that it would seek to work with members of First Nations communities to more accurately reflect the time period. “While we cannot undo what has already been published, we are committed to making things better for future editions,” it said. “We know that we have to do better and we know that it will take us some time to improve upon this experience.”