Students Request U of T to Cancel Duncan Campbell Scott’s Honors – The Varsity

Content Warning: This article discusses racism and violence against indigenous peoples.

Students and advocates are petition U by T to demand that it publicly revoke the honorary doctorate awarded to author Duncan Campbell Scott in 1922. At the time, he was serving as deputy inspector at the Department of Indian Affairs, which oversaw Canada’s residential schools.

The petition says the U of T has historically improved Scott’s reputation and helped create and maintain a political culture of racism and colonialism by awarding him the honor of being held accountable for the damage his work has inflicted on indigenous peoples. The petition notes that the call in 2022 could be an important opportunity for the U of T to direct its actions publicly.

“Scott’s honor has become part of the confirmation of Canadian racist mythologies that legitimize colonialism while ignoring the terrible costs to indigenous peoples. One hundred years later, it’s time to correct the record,” the petition reads.

ONE similar petition was also initiated at Queen’s University, where Scott received his honorary degree.

Students require Scott’s degrees revoked

Amanda Buffalo, a U of T PhD student who is a native, was one of the sponsors of the petition. Buffalo said she learned about the degree awarded to Scott in the book Royally wronged, where current members of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC) explore the organization’s historical contribution to a knowledge system rooted in colonialism. Scott previously served as president of the RSC.

Buffalo said that in the wake of the discoveries of mass graves on former residential school sites and the injustices against indigenous peoples, is now a good time for the U of T to reconsider the honor it bestowed on Scott. “I thought 100 years after the fact would be a perfect time for the University of Toronto to reconsider the conference to the extent of Duncan Campbell Scott and move toward reconciliation with indigenous peoples,” she said.

Buffalo noted that Scott’s literary works were “instrumental” in the cultural genocide of indigenous peoples. She said Scott had envisioned eradicating indigenous peoples in Canada and expressed this view very comprehensively in his work. She added that his position as a public servant enabled him to put this vision into practice.

Buffalo is concerned that Scott’s work is still being taught, as if his contribution to the genocide of indigenous peoples in Canada does not continue to have an impact today. “I do not regard Duncan Campbell Scott as a controversial figure: the evidence is clear that he was just an incredibly violent man who committed genocide against indigenous peoples. There is no controversy,” she said.

Buffalo said she hopes to speak with U of Ts president and vice president proost to have a conversation about how to investigate legacies like Scotts and move toward reconciliation. She noted that there is clear support for the petition and that this initiative would be an opportunity to build towards a more just society. As of January 30, the petition has collected over 1,100 signatures.

“I think this petition is less of a requirement and more of an invitation to have more conversations [and] really engage in acts of reconciliation, ”Buffalo said. She believes the discussion of honor is an opportunity to engage in reconciliation, and she urges afterschools to do their part to resolve the historical wrong.

Tayte Gossling, a fourth-year undergraduate student at Queen’s University, initiated one similar petition it requires Queen’s to revoke the honorary degree of law awarded to Scott. Gossling said she learned more about Scott in a class reading centered on private schools and was shocked to find out that Queen’s had given him an honorary degree.

“I think my experience through my time at Queen’s has been a great realization that racism and sexism are really, really prevalent on campus. But I did not really know that heritage as extreme as Duncan Campbell Scotts was honored and in a way embedded in our institution, ”Gossling said in an interview with Varsity.

Gossling said Canadian universities often rely on performative statements of truth and reconciliation that are not followed by concrete actions to solve problems that affect indigenous peoples.

“If you do not really put your money where your mouth is, it’s complete oral luck,” Gossling said.

U of T’s answer

In another email Varsity, a spokesman for the U of T wrote that senior management is actively considering assessing the honors awarded to historic individuals. They wrote that the U of T would do so in connection with the Canadian community’s current re-evaluation of its history, and that more details about the university’s plan would be released in the coming months.

“As a leading global public university, any assessment of the role of historical figures must be based on rigorous research and academic scholarship. We are committed to developing strong principles to inform the university’s processes so that these complex issues can be resolved appropriately and respectfully,” it reads. in the mail.

Explains Scott’s legacy

Cindy Blackstock, a member of Gitksan First Nation and a professor at McGill University’s School of Social Work, told Varsity that she believes it is important that people see Scott as the leader of Canada’s residential school system.

“So when we think of Duncan Campbell Scott as one [Confederation] Poet … we also have to think about his legacy as the leading public servant in the private school … for 52 years, and then ask ourselves the question: which of these legacies has had a greater impact on Canadian society ?

She added that Scott’s poetry should be read in a way that caters for residential schools. “If you read his poetry, it’s very racist,” she said.

Blackstock also serves as Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, who commissioned a report on Scott’s life in 2016. The report concluded that Scott’s contribution to Canadian literature is “far outweighed” by the detrimental effects of his oversight of the homeschooling system.

“We all have inheritances – multiple inheritances – but not all of our inheritances are equal. So it’s important that we [weigh] our legacy properly, ”Blackstock said.

Scott in context

Blackstock noted that Scott was not only a product of his time, but a person who actively ignored the appalling conditions in the residential schools because he saw them as necessary to clear land for settlement. She explained that it was Scott’s “conscious choice” to continue the housing school policy and that he was fully aware of the abnormally high mortality rate among native children in these schools. She pointed out that back in the early twentieth century, the abuse of native children had already made national headlines and received criticism on several fronts.

“The unnecessary deaths among children in private schools … it was in the public eye, in the press,” Blackstock said. “Headlines like ‘Absolute inattention to naked necessities and health’, ‘Children dying like flies’. [Those were] the Canadian headlines in 1908. “

In 1922, the year U of T awarded Scott the honorary doctorate, Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce – the medical inspector at the Department of the Interior and Indian Affairs at the time – his book, The Story of a National Crime: Being an Appeal of Justice to the Indians of Canada.

The book presents evidence of the government’s ignorance and passivity in the face of the horrific conditions that led to a large number of deaths among native children. “[In the schools, a] the trail of illness and death has gone almost unchecked by any serious efforts by the Ministry of Indian Affairs, ”it reads.

Some people from areas other than medicine also expressed their concerns about the harsh conditions at schools and questioned the school system. An Ontario lawyer and judge, Samuel Hume Blake, wrote in 1908 that he had “a general and strong sense of dissatisfaction” with how indigenous peoples were treated. In 1906, the diocese of Saskatchewan commented that the residential school system was “harmful to the Indians,” and the same year the bishop of Moosonee wrote that there was a “shocking death rate among the children.”

“[The condition of residential schools] was known at the time. The people of the period thought that this was violent, if not criminal, “said Blackstock. “[Scott] did not disagree that the children were dying. He knew they were. He had solutions to save their lives and he knew those solutions would work. He simply chose not to implement them. ”

She noted that given that these reports and criticisms were already circulating among large sections of Canadian society, it would be very difficult to believe that the U of T was not aware of the deaths in schools and Scott’s involvement in these deaths on it. time when they gave Scott his honorary degree.

“We have to trust people with the truth,” Blackstock said. She said it is important that historical facts are presented to the public so that people have the opportunity to reflect on them and learn their homework. “It’s being able to learn from the past, but in a way that awakens you to the current injustices and allows you to address them,” Blackstock said.

“As for their contemporary actions … [universities] has a higher obligation to stand in the winds of discrimination, ”Blackstock said.

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