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Indigenous author’s book pulled from Durham school board library shelves without explanation

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Durham school board removes Indigenous author’s books from library shelves
WATCH: An award-winning Indigenous author is questioning the Durham District School Board's decision to pull one of his books from library shelves. The board claims it contains content that could be harmful to Indigenous students and their families the very same groups the author wrote the book for. Morganne Campbell has more on "The Great Bear" and the controversy around it – Apr 18, 2022

A book that focusses on anti-bullying and other contemporary issues has been pulled from libraries within the Durham District School Board and the award-winning Indigenous author who penned The Great Bear says he doesn’t understand why.

“I’ve been doing this work now for 13 years. I have written books for Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth to empower Indigenous youth and to educate non-Indigenous youth about culture history and contemporary issues,” explains Winnipeg-based author David Robertson.

“I started writing books because I wanted kids to have access to resources that I didn’t have and so it’s really confusing to me.”

Read more: Brampton school ditches Sir John A. Macdonald’s name, honours Indigenous elder

The Durham District School Board DDSB says the book has been pulled because it includes content that could be harmful to Indigenous students and families. In a statement posted to the board’s website on Saturday, the DDSB suggested the book was flagged by “local Indigenous community members”

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“We will be providing an update on this topic next week.”

​Robertson maintains that neither he or his publisher, Penguin Random House, received any information about why the book was pulled. The DDSB took to its website to explain that following an investigation by the DDSB IT department, it found the emails from the publisher were filtered out therefore not received by any of the individuals they were written to.

“The DDSB has previously engaged with Forest of Reading on this topic and would have with Penguin Random House if the e-mails were received. We look forward to responding to Penguin Random House once the appropriate staff have had a chance to review their e-mails,” the statement read.

“We are not aware of Penguin Random House using any other methods, such as phone to contact the DDSB, which would have solved this communication problem.”

But there’s still one think lacking — an explanation.

The author says he’s received support from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, groups and educators and support continues to mount for the author who has  reputation of putting “great care” into all of his books.

“It’s just really devastating to know that kids in a school board in southern Ontario are being denied his (Robertson’s) gifts,” explains Sudbury, Ont., Indigenous author and journalist Waubgeshig Rice.

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“We are building bigger communities, the circle is widening, and for my kids, they’re growing up in a more empowered era.”

Read more: The controversy over Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, explained

Indigenous MPP Sol Mamakwa is calling on the DDSB to rethink its decision.

“It’s a shame that this book was pulled and I hope the Durham School Board and whoever makes these decisions is open to reopening the dialogue.”

Roberston says he’s not necessarily looking for an apology from the board. Instead, he feels the board should apologize to students. He’d also like to see the board review their policies to make sure they’re being understood and carried out appropriately.

“When you take those books out of the hands of kids effectively what you were doing is you were taking truth from their hands and you were hindering the process of reconciliation rather than supporting it in anyway.”

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