Durham District School Board faces questions after pulling David Robertson’s The Great Bear
School board trustees across Ontario are seeking transparency and clarity after a Winnipeg Cree author’s children’s book was temporarily removed from schools following complaints.
David A. Robertson, award-winning author and member of the Norway House Cree Nation, has discovered that his book, The Great Bear, has been temporarily removed from Durham District School Board schools in Ontario pending a review.
Robertson told CTV News Tuesday morning that he still doesn’t know why the book, which he says is a mid-level fantasy series aimed at empowering Indigenous children, was taken down.
“If we’re now going to start pulling those pounds, then I think we’re taking a huge step back on the path that we’re trying to go down in Canada,” he said.
He said several teachers in the district privately messaged him in support of his book.
At a meeting on Tuesday evening, Norah Marsh, director of education for the Durham District School Board, said a review of Robertson’s book was sparked after Aboriginal families in the district raised concerns regarding the book.
She did not specify what the concerns were.
“We are therefore conducting a review based on the complaints we have received, but we have not made any final decision,” she said. “The purpose of the review is to engage with students, employees and Indigenous communities to ask for their direction.”
Marsh said the district reached out to set up a meeting with Robertson as well as a native counselor and members of the native education department. She said the district did not intend to publicly affect anyone’s reputation and said they did not contact Robertson initially as they were speaking to the community first. native.
“We haven’t informed him yet that there are questions because it was premature to make a judgment before the review process happens,” she said.
However, the district’s handling of the situation has raised concerns among administrators – one of whom told the board he heard from two Indigenous students who said they felt their experience had been invalidated by the ruling.
“There are even students on our board who feel hurt by the decision-making or perceived decision-making that has happened so far,” administrator Niki Lundquist said, calling for more clarity around the resource review process.
“One of the things we need to be clear about is transparency and who is the arbiter of the material and how it works. Because we still have values of free speech and I know we certainly don’t want to be involved in censorship and we also don’t want to do things that harm indigenous communities.”
CTV News contacted the DDSB but did not hear back. The district did not say how long the review will take or when a decision might be expected.
“We recognize the sensitivities surrounding decision-making involving an Indigenous author. However, it is our duty and responsibility to respond and address the concerns raised by Indigenous students and families,” Associate Director Jim Markovski said during the meeting Tuesday evening.
Durham District trustees voted Tuesday night for a report to be presented to the district’s governance committee no later than June explaining the criteria for book removal and including themes that trigger a book review.