Hamilton school board candidate under fire for promoting ‘benefits of colonialism’ article

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By Liam McConnell

Published on October 1, 2022 at 5:47 p.m.

A candidate for a seat on the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board professed the belief that colonialism was in fact good. – through HWDSB

A candidate vying for a seat on the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, the city’s largest, has taken on an opponent for promoting an article on the ‘benefits of colonialism’

The candidate, Catharine Kronas, who is already controversial for her “Stop Woke” campaign, took to Twitter in July to share the article “The Case for Colonialism”. His opponent Graeme Noble noticed this support for colonialism and shared it again on September 30.

The controversial article was written by Bruce Gilley in 2017 and published in the academic journal Third World Quarterly. The article was published against the recommendation of its reviewers, and 15 of the journal’s 34 board members resigned in protest.

Many have claimed that the article, which argues that colonialism is both objective and legitimate good, was not properly peer-reviewed before publication. In it, Gilley argues that colonialism should make a comeback. Critics called the article “academic clickbait” and compared it to former President Donald Trump’s tweets.

Third World Quarterly later retracted the article, sparking more controversy. However, it was later published by a conservative nonprofit, the National Association of Scholars, which regularly rails against “culture cancellation” and similar culture warfare topics.

Gilly’s article goes against the academic consensus on colonialism. Numerous studies and stories have inextricably linked settler colonialism to genocide, including both the death of peoples and their cultures.

In the Canadian context, the worst example of the horrors of colonialism, although there are many, occurred in 1876 when the federal government passed the Indian Act and established its greatest shame, the residential school system.

The Indian Act continues to control interactions between the government and Indigenous peoples. The residential school system would last more than the next 100 years. About 30% of all Indigenous children, or about 150,000, are said to attend schools where they were systematically stripped of their languages ​​and cultural practices.

Many of these children suffered horrific mental, physical and sexual abuse. Many others were exploited for agricultural labor instead of being educated. The food was often barely edible. A school, The Mohawk Institute, 36 kilometers from Hamilton, has been nicknamed “the Mush Hole” because of the food served. The disease often plagued schools, killing many people.

The alleged or confirmed graves of 2,451 children have been discovered at the sites of former boarding schools since 1974. However, the death toll is expected to be much higher. The last school remained in operation until 1996.

One survivor of these schools, Phyllis Jack Webstad, was six years old when she arrived at Saint Joseph’s Mission near William’s Lake, British Columbia. When she arrived at school, she was stripped of her clothes, including an orange shirt. After sharing its history, the shirt became a symbol of the cultures removed from indigenous peoples by colonialism.

This was the impetus behind Orange Shirt Day on September 30, an informal day of remembrance for lost and traumatized children in the residential school system. The federal government, after a series of grave finds, formalized September 30 as the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

On the second such official holiday, Noble took to Twitter to remind Hamiltonians of Kronas’ views on colonialism. This support is integrated into his campaign which has regularly denounced critical race theory (CRT) in schools.

Kronas thinks the CRT is a “Marxist” attempt to undermine the “colorblind liberal principle of equality”. She said, “Although CRT supporters call it ‘anti-racism’, in reality they are calling for active racial discrimination and segregation between students of different races.”

Additionally, she has professed the belief that the Hamilton school’s decision to fight racism discriminates against white people.

Noble, who changed the district he was running in to counter Kronas for the then-uncontested seat, calls Kronas’ ideas “hateful ideology” and “extremist nonsense of alternative facts.”

School elections will take place on October 24.

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