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Australian new source News.com.au reports

On Tuesday, it was reported in Canadian media that in 2019 a “flame purification ceremony” was held by the French language school board Conseil scolaire catholique Providence, which oversees elementary and secondary schools in southwestern Ontario.

This involved destroying thousands of books.

National Review reports similar action as well as theWeek.

However, I was unable to find local sources corroborating the story and thus remain skeptical.

Were there book burning(s) in Canada 2019 or recently?

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  • 7
    Wow. Book burning is indeed a pretty weird way to celebrate something. Sep 21 at 9:47
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    @DmitryGrigoryev: The TL:DR summary here (from the answer and comments) seems to be that these were books with racist / problematic depictions of First Nations peoples ("Indians"), and they ceremonially burned 30 of them as part of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. So it sounds a lot different from what we normally think of as "book burning" as blanket censorship, not just getting something out of schools. IDK what they did with the other copies; maybe some scholars want some of them to preserve the evidence of our colonialist past. Sep 21 at 11:57
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    @PeterCordes Removing problematic books from schools didn't have to involve actual book burning, and I'm really wondering whether people who organized it were oblivious to the connotations such an act has, or planned this deliberately. And "racist" is an awfully strong word for books such as this one, don't you think? Ironically, some of the destroyed books were written by people with Native American origins who dedicated their lives to promote their ancestors' culture. Sep 21 at 12:45
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    @PeterCordes Has there ever been a public book burning which hasn't been thought of as a purification ceremony? Sep 21 at 15:10
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    Maybe the main point is that there is always some justification. The censors always think they are right 'in their case'. Personally: it doesn't matter which color flag you wave but what you do.
    – pinegulf
    Sep 22 at 11:22
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Yes.

There is an incidence where one school board decided this would be a great idea and proceeded to see this done within its jurisdiction in Ontario, Canada.

Canadian news outlets reporting on the 2019 book burning and its recent aftermath:

A major literary purge has taken place in the libraries of the Conseil scolaire catholique, Providence, which includes 30 French-language schools across southwestern Ontario. Nearly 5,000 children's books about Aboriginal people were destroyed in an effort to reconcile with the First Nations, Radio-Canada has learned.

A ceremony of purification by flame was held in 2019 to burn about thirty banned books, for educational purposes. The ashes were used as fertilizer to plant a tree and thus turn the negative into positive.

...

[Lyne Cossette, spokesperson for the Conseil], added that the works withdrawn from the libraries had "out-dated and inappropriate content."

[Suzy Kies, leader of the initiative] denounced the indigenous characters presented in the childrens' books as "untrustworthy, lazy, drunk, stupid... When we perpetuate this sort of image in the minds of youths, it's hard for them to get rid of it."

'fertilising' trees with ashes from burned books

Des écoles détruisent 5000 livres jugés néfastes aux Autochtones, dont Tintin et Astérix — Radio Canada 7 septembre 2021 (translated from French)

Co-chair of Liberals' Indigenous commission resigns after questions emerge about ancestry — Reporting from Radio-Canada cast doubt on Kies' claims to Indigenous ancestry — Richard Raycraft · CBC News · Posted: Sep 08, 2021

Ontario school board 'regrets' burning books in the name of reconciliation​ as part of educational program — Abby Neufeld — CTV News, September 10, 2021 3:52PM EDT

School board says it got burned in Indigenous book burning project. Aboriginal credentials of a person they partnered with on the project are in question — Toronto Sun, Joe Warmington, Sep 09, 2021

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    The news.com.au article says "schools burned almost 5000 books". I think it's worth saying explicitly in the answer that that claim is wrong, but National Review and theWeek are correct that about 4700 books were discarded from district libraries and 30 of them were ceremonially burned.
    – benrg
    Sep 20 at 21:50
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    @AnoE Tintin and Asterix books are indeed full of stereotypes, and Great Crossing therefore indeed wildly 'inaccurate' for depicting East Coast inhabitants of the land. That's of course the entire point of Asterix, to present and make fun of stereotypes the French had of everyone else when the book was written (with 'Indians' being a mix of all US citizens today!). Curiously, the reporting about the event in Q is inaccurate all around in all venues I looked at. The Radio Canada piece for example uses a picture that might look like French Asterix 1975 book, but is from a German 1994 movie… Sep 22 at 9:12
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    @AnoE: Realizing that everyone is being caricatured is a pretty subtle point that young readers (especially elementary school age, even high school age) could easily miss, especially many years after it was written and for kids growing up in a different culture. It's understandable for librarians to worry that kids would take it at face value, if they weren't doing a social-studies or English course where they examined and talked about those stereotypes in Asterix. Shaping kids views doesn't require something specifically offensive, just repeated patterns, at least that's the concern. Sep 22 at 13:01
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    @PeterCordes : this argument "it poisons the minds of the young" was used by basically every book burning, for example done by the inquisition or the nazis.
    – vsz
    Sep 22 at 17:10
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    @chux-ReinstateMonica : isn't Godwin's law supposed to be used against someone who names the Nazis just as some generic evil in an attempt to say "I think you're evil, and you know who else is evil? The Nazis!"? If someone literally promotes the exact same policy the Nazis promoted, does calling that out also fall under Godwin's law?
    – vsz
    Sep 22 at 20:07

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