Durham school board ‘conducting review’ of Indigenous book after complaints

Click to play video: 'Durham school board removes Indigenous author’s books from library shelves'
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

The Durham District School Board (DDSB) says it is “conducting a review” of a book by an Indigenous author which, on Saturday, it said it had removed from its libraries.

The book, titled The Great Bear, was penned by an Indigenous writer based in Winnipeg.

“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,” author David Robertson said.

“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.”

In an update during a board meeting Tuesday evening, Norah Marsh, the DDSB’s director of education, said the board had received complaints from Indigenous students and families.

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She said those complaints prompted the board to begin “conducting a review” but emphasized that “no final decision” had yet been made.

The purpose of the review, Marsh said, will be to “engage with Indigenous students, employees and communities to seek their direction.”

Through its review, the board will attempt to “move forward in a positive way” while honouring the concerns raised by Indigenous parents, Marsh said.

The handling of the incident by DDSB staff drew criticism from some trustees.

“Frankly, I would’ve appreciate a heads up,” Trustee Michael Barret said during the meeting. He said he was “significantly disappointed” to learn about the incident through media reporting.

Associate director Jim Markovski told trustees that staff recognized “the sensitivities around making a decision involving an Indigenous author” but felt they had a duty to respond to complaints from staff and students.

The review process will include engagement with original rights holders, students and families among various stakeholders. Staff said it would be “full and thorough.”

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