On Joseph Boyden and “Ethnic Fraud”


Cheval_de_Troie_d'après_le_Virgile_du_Vatican
Trojan Horse after Virgilius Vaticanus
(Note a working paper in progress – expanding & editing apr 18, 2017…pardon errors) 

At what point should Boyden’s identity quest have been identified as no more than a desiring machine?

I pose this question to myself as someone who has been teaching and writing about Canadian literature and culture over more than thirty years. Joseph Boyden perpetually posed as part Indigenous, an improvised status that afforded him access to advice, teachings, prestige and awards reserved for Indigenous persons. This is misguided and wrong.

I take little pleasure in part of this public debate. The talented and accomplished writer Joseph Boyden is suffering a serious and damaging and humiliating public critique. But I remain unflaggingly sympathetic to those who write about the losses within the Indigenous community when someone inauthentically takes up their space in the public sphere. To those writers and thinkers who already suffer the perils of a colonizing and racist nation state, the marginalization and the damage endures. And I understand the intensity of these critiques especially by those whose community identities or personal influence were particularly exploited. (The list of those active in this debate include Marilyn Dumont, Daniel Justice Heath,

I’m critical of Boyden’s misuse of Indigenous language and ideas and stories and persons.

  • The Mohawk Columbia University anthropologist Audra Simpson notes that “It has been conversation among Native people for years — who is this person? Who does he belong to?… It is simply a matter of kin [and] not shameful to ask who you belong to.”
  • Simpson also challenges Boyden from the position of a community that has been silenced through his “claims to identity [… ]there is no end to what he will do or say, it seems in our name….There is nothing innocent, or confused about talking about, or speaking for and speaking over us.”
  • Others point out that Boyden has profited financially from his false identity. While Boyden notes he only ever won one Indigenous literary prize that he shared with others, the fact that he gathered speaking engagements and a place on Canadian and Indigenous curriculum in educational institutions in Canada and elsewhere was achieved in part by his improvised Indigenous identity.
  • Simpson and others are also aggrieved that he became a go to person in terms of thinking through Indigenous politics and cultural policy. which also afforded him opportunities t“disturbing” and “egregious” about the whole Boyden controversy, wrote Simpson, was how willing the author is to “take up space” in literary circles and frame the political debate around reconciliation, to represent Indigenous thought with regard to public policy and politics. His promotion of “reconciliation” for instance legitimates a position and policy on the basis of false identity claims. The prominence and status of Boyden’s voice by definition muffles other dissenting indigenous voices.
  • In an interview Boyden uses the term “two-spirited” to not indicate its Indigenous meaning – a shape-shifting sexual identity – but to point to middle-class mobility and his ability to live in New Orleans, U.S.A. and in northern Ontario where he summers near James Bay. In a May 2011 Nuva interview, Boyden muses: “There’s something called the ‘two-spirit person’ in a lot of First Nations cultures,” he says, “meaning somebody who is never completely in one physical place, in one mental place, and I think I’m a bit of a two-spirit person. Home for me has to be both places—it has to be New Orleans, it [also] has to be Ontario. I would be very incomplete without either of those. It might be a little schizophrenic, but it works for me.”The misuse of this term reveals the shirt tail of class privilege acquired in part by playing poseur to a willing audience of literary voyeurs.
  • It is unethical for Joseph Boyden to misuse actual people’s names in fictional works without their permission. That exploits, for instance, the elders and communities that provided the architecture of the Real were deployed in the fictional world of Boyden’s creation without acknowledgment. One elderly woman was surprised to discover her name became a fictional character in one of his novels.
  • In a February 2017  scandal, Boyden was called to task by filmmaker and writer Judith Doyle who collaborated to produce important work with the late Indigenous storyteller.  … .
  • I understand and abide by the cultural notion of stories that Indigenous stories are sacred and these stories should not to be shared without permission.
  • I’m sympathetic with those indigenous sources or advisors who feel exploited in having spent years providing generous advice and information to someone who was satisfied with too little self-knowledge.
  • I am in accord with the critiques of appropriative power when a non-representative from a community speaks on behalf of a cultural group that is not their own. When the assumed status of an already historically oppressed people is acquired by a member of a privileged colonizing group, it is particularly infuriating. Why should their inauthentic voice be authorized?

I’m disappointed in Boyden’s own satisfaction that improvising an identity was good enough to assume it. Looking back I’m astonished at the citational range of his shifting cultural locations that were unearthed and discredited by the carefully researched APTN article. Boyden’s nomadic auto-spatialization from one indigenous community group to another was an ongoing performance of self-making spurred on not by insight but by overreaching. The Canadian metaphor that comes to mind to describe Boyden’s identity explorations or fabrications is skating on ice too thin to hold the weight even of the “small part” of Indigeneity he claimed. “A small part” appears not to exist. Thin ice was not required.

Even now he still claims to be “a white kid from Willowdale with native roots.

No community claimed by Boyden claimed him because his claims were found wanting – people in these communities who would have access to knowledge of family histories refuted it. Books that would include accounts of his Indigenous lineage were silent. The single living relative Boyden publicly identified as an authentic Indigenous ancestor his uncle “Injun Joe” was documented in a 1956 Maclean’s magazine interview confessing he manufactured his ethnic identity in order to sell trinkets to tourists from a teepee in Algonquin Park. This geneology distinguishes Joseph Boyden as perpetuating “Grey Owling” as an honourable lineage. You can read more about this here.

Hayden King’s term “ethnic fraud” seems a good enough term for what looks like  unwitting or “crafty” fictioneering indulged in by Joseph Boyden. His story illustrates the craft of what I’ll call ethnic nomadism – of leaping from one territory to another to find a genetic link to Indigeneity.

Anthropologist Audra Simpson outlined her position in this detailed facebook post (tweeted December 27, 2016):

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………………………………..

The aesthetic critique of stereotype and violence

While many admire Boyden’s skills as a fiction writer, some have critiqued his fictional thematics and characterization. Among others, two Indigenous scholars Hayden White (Carleton U) and Daniel Heath Justice (UBC) have argued that Boyden’s work is limited by his lack of familiarity with Indigenous experiences and by his adherence to violence and stereotypic representations of the Indigenous.

King’s review of The Orenda critiques the tropes of “mystical” “child-like” and ” Indian and describes it as “a timeless, classic colonial alibi” that recenters the native story on the Jesuits. Considering that Boyden attended a Jesuit school, this shift in focalization seems autobiographically connected, the history of a boy whose highly revered father’s WWII experiences as a wartime doctor inspired in part Boyden’s interest in war writing and Three Day Road.

These tweets are part of Daniel Heath Justice’s  literary and cultural critique that contributed an informative twitter feed during the intense dialogues that developed around the Boyden controversy:
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Justice’s comments here foreground the active knowledge making of Indigenous women writers who were key to developing the analysis of Boycott’s shifting claims. Interestingly in the mainstream media summarizing of the public debate these twitter voices, many of them Indigenous women, tended to remain undocumented while Indigenous men who wrote op eds in major Canadian periodicals were cited.

Heath Justice’s critique of Boyden’s writing was rooted in his objection to the writer’s obsession with violence to the exclusion of other aspects of Indigenous life especially in The Orenda. The retreat into stereotype is a colonial move.

Slow Genocide: Grey Owling as a Settler Cultural Tradition –
our psychic yearning for authentic origins
to paper over colonial history &
the “slow genocide”of Indigenous peoples

The term “slow genocide” has been used by Klee Benally, a Diné (Navajo) activist commenting on toxic uranium mining near the Grand Canyon and by others.  In a recent talk,  writer Gary Geddes spoke about this in relation to  Medicine Unbundled: A Journey through the Minefields of Indigenous Health Care, a book written for an audience uninformed about the deadly segregated healthcare system that operated over decades in lethal ways propagated by a racist bureaucracy that looked the other way.
My comments here may sound harsh but they are intended simply to articulate a tradition among white settlers to assume the position of authentic Indian in the context of a history of violent genocide that almost wiped out an entire people. I write this remembering the Beothuk, the first peoples who were entirely erased in Newfoundland before Confederation.

Boyden’s passionate and particular will to carve out an Indigenous identity for himself is not unique. It has been theorized and analyzed by some talented critical thinkers. And here I am grateful for conversations with Dr. Kim Tallbear for her rich insights and bibliography.

This crisis of authenticity and Indigenous invention has been played out many times in the U.S. where for instance the American anthropologists claims of Cherokee identity provoked this collective response from U.S. Indigenous women. Part of the letter reads:

Given the intellectual and emotional labor that Andrea Smith’s silence and lack of accountability has required us all—supporter or critic—to undertake, we would like to also ask for reflection and care in the stories generated to make sense of her contradictions and her silences. The history of Cherokee removal and dispossession is deeply woven into the same southeastern landscapes shaped by slavery and anti-black racism, and the Cherokee Nation’s disenfranchisement of the Freedmen must continue to be ethically addressed and challenged. So too must efforts to expunge the rolls of entire families in indigenous nations across this continent. At the same time, we recognize that histories of “playing Indian” have gone hand in hand with dispossession of land in Indian Territory during allotment. Playing Indian is enabled by and supports the dominant narrative that indigenous peoples are vanishing or already vanished. The material consequences of that narrative includes ongoing claims by the state, by science, and by non-indigenous individuals to indigenous lands, sacred sites, remains, and both individual and group representations of us. Our concerns are grounded in these histories, and we challenge both individual and structural forms of indigenous erasure.
Smith’s self-acknowledged false claims and lack of clarity on her own identity perpetuate deeply ingrained notions of race—black, white, and Indian—that run counter to indigenous modes of kinship, family, and community connection. When she and others continue to produce her as Cherokee, indigenous, and/or as a woman of color by default, they reinforce a history in which settlers have sought to appropriate every aspect of indigenous life and absolve themselves of their own complicity with continued dispossession of both indigenous territory and existence.
The stories we tell have consequences, and the harm that some stories produce goes beyond their individual context. One of the devastating consequences of Smith having served as the often singular representative of indigeneity in a variety of academic and activist social justice contexts is damage to strategic alliance building, especially between indigenous and non-indigenous women of color. Accountability to communities, kinship networks and multiple histories is part of the difficult work scholars of indigenous and critical race studies must be willing to undertake to ensure that our work combats rather than reinforces or leaves untouched the intricate dynamics of heteropatriarchal racist colonialism.

On Playing Indian

In Playing Indian (Yale UP, 1998), Philip J. Deloria writes: “From the colonial period to the present,” he writes, “the Indian has skulked in and out of the most important stories various Americans have told about themselves” (5).

Dr. Tallbear insists with a bleakly comic glint in her eye that the reason Americans play Indian is they imagine that all contemporary Indigenous people are dead. Anyone following news of the  U.S. Presidential election can attest to the almost complete erasure  of Indigenous peoples.

Many commented on the mainstream media invisibility of Standing Rock, an event mainly documented by Democracy Now until U.S. Veterans were called in as defenders and the interest of a few mainstream media people emerged during Obama’s last months in office.

Nonetheless, the romance with an Indigenous past shapes a mythology that erases a genocidal history none of us living on this land want to recall.

I’m quite convinced that this keen repression is at work among many of those who respond to Joseph Boyden. And it may inform his own psychic longings. Rather than positioning ourselves as turning a blind eye to the Indigenous man who camps out in subzero temperatures in the river valley in a tent intended for summer, we want to imagine our best foot forward as settler readers of an Indigenous literature that resonates with us. We recognize the contours of WWI. My great uncle, an artist, died as a teen there. We understand the violence of The Orenda – the fictional reimagining of a history based on the documentation dramaturged by Jesuit priests of the era.
But how does this define Indigenous literature in Canada? What does it mean that we recognize ourselves in a fictional frame that roots itself in non-Indigenous identity?
Philip J. Deloria pointed out that playing Indian at the Boston Tea Party was a profound fuck you to British colonial history. The Indigenous identity was authentic within a colonial setting, Deloria’s historical argument tracks playing Indian as an “authentic” figuration of identity from the Boston tea party through rock culture:

“In the end, Grateful Dead Indians, Boston Tea Party Indians, and those who came between drank from the same well of meanings: Indianness offered a deep, authentic, aboriginal Americanness. No matter if the form were proto-American or anti-American, Indianness grounded a number of significant searches for identity on thiscontinent. To play Indian has been to connect with a real Self, both collective and individual, and there was no better way to find such reassurance” (183).

“From the colonial period to the present,” he writes, “the Indian has skulked in and out of the most important stories various Americans have told about themselves” (5). And we can certainly argue, this colonial impulse informs us Canadians as well.
Philip Deloria begins with a meticulous analysis of the Boston Tea Party. He argues that the colonial patriots dressed as Indians not to disguise themselves but to symbolize rebellion and separateness from the British. The use of Indian dress to express a unique but nebulous American identity was not uncommon during the colonial period, he reveals, and it has remained a significant part of the American drama ever since. In the years after the Revolution, “Indianness” became more multivalent as organizations such as the American Tammany societies—which invoked freedom, patriotism, and aboriginal roots by dressing as Indians in their May Day celebrations—were increasingly ridiculed by a public who saw actual Native peoples as a formidable threat to American expansion. Savage and noble savage images thus competed with one another and set the stage for a more elusive form of playing Indian in the secret fraternal orders of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

I can imagine that in an atmosphere of colonial cultural institutions eager to laud a writer’s obvious gifts and skills in writing, one might be propelled by the weight of one’s wish fulfillment to assume an identity not one’s own. The rewards are obvious.
But I ask myself how is it that we in the literary community are satisfied by the ever mutable and tenuous claims to authenticity? And why is it that we have so little insight into the work and ideas of Indigenous scholars whose research and expertise in these questions continues to be doubted and dismissed in ongoing public discussion. And why is it that those who are questioning Boyden’s ethnic claims are attacked as fuelled by envy or malign motives? And why is it that misrepresentation and appropriative identity theft can be acceptable because this person performed good works on behalf of communities not his own?

On the limits of “cultural appropriation”

For all this, in the end I do not subscribe to a general condemnation of cultural appropriation. The imaginative act of writing beyond your own culture is just that. Writers with skill and labour do this effectively and often. But they do not claim ethnic authenticity as the source of their imaginative insight. They claim the act of writing as a space of imagining. Where they can get it right enough or wrong.
Indigenous Expertise and the Transformation of the Academy –
Educational Institutions Respond in the Affirmative
to the TRC Action Plan
Having taught Canadian literature and culture for about three decades, one of the very positive elements in this debate is that it occurs at a moment when so many more Indigenous writers and scholars are contributing to our public discourse through their writing in print and digital forms and fora.

And in response to the urgent Calls to Action of the TRC, some of our cultural institutions are hiring wonderful Indigenous scholars whose brilliant contributions to these debates bring great honour all of us as they develop critical decolonizing insight about our culture as a whole. I feel so grateful to count among my colleagues in the Faculty of Arts and Native Studies some of the most eloquent voices in recent public debates. These colleagues work as writers, artists, scholars and public intellectuals on issues related to decolonization, cultural knowledge and modes of knowing, identity, politics and history (and the list is partial):

  • The esteemed poet, essayist Marilyn Dumont and author most recently of glorious poems in The Pemmican Eaters is a colleague in English & Film Studies and Native Studies.
  • Dr. Isabel Altamirano-Jimenez, a Zapotec from Oaxaca, Mexico, is the organizer of the annual Indigenous Women’s Conference at the University Alberta. And she is the recent co-editor with historian Dr. Nathalie Kermoal (Assoc. Dean of Native Studies) of Living on the Land: Indigenous Women’s Understanding of Place (available as a free download on this Athabasca UP link.)
  • Dr.Tracy Bear in Native Studies, author of ground-breaking and innovative work on the Indigenous Erotic.
  • Dr. Chris Andersen, Acting Dean of Native Studies is the author of Metis: Race, Ethnicity and the Struggle for Indigenous Peoplehood.
  • Political scientist Dr. Adam Gaudry, is an expert in the history of the Metis/Canada Treaty relationship among other things.
  • Visual artist and curator Tanya Harnett who is a member of the Carry the Kettle First Nations in southern Saskatchewan. Her photography and installations work includes recent explorations of the fact that three generations of her family who attended Canadian Residential Schools.
  • Dr. Kim Tallbear who is Dakota Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Peoples, Technoscience and Environment, wrote the book on Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science (2013). One of her earlier essays exposes the colonial origins of the promise of DNA.
  • Legal scholar and Native Studies Associate Dean (Research) D’Arcy Vermette whose commentaries elucidate complex issues including the Daniel’s Case below.

On Fake Indigenous Identity, DNA and One Drop of Blood

[[ Kim Tallbear interviewed on CBC’s Ontario Today says: “by being a person who’s concerned not simply with the immaterial but the actual material struggles of Native people is a great way to actually demonstrate to Native communities that you’re not using this [quest to reconnect with Indigenous heritage] just to benefit from them but you actually see it as a point to lend some sort of responsibility and action.” (30:10-25)

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/programs/ontariotoday/going-native-1.4015525

taking up environmental issues….

Native spirituality. When people want to connect with native communities they tendtothis on the basis of immaterial issues. They can be eyeopening experiences. Show us something about the problem ]]

If you leave it inside the immaterial space… or it can be something you can put into action….

Kim Tallbear’s writing about DNA and identity puts to rest the “one drop of blood” authorization of Indigenous identity..

Genetic databases built from living human beings’ biological samples offer interesting but incomplete genetic views of the deep past and certainly should not be seen as anything approximating a cultural or social snapshot. DNA tests, aside from their use in very specific cases, compel us to conflate genetic ancestry with racial, ethnic, national, tribal, and kinship identity categories, but these categories are embedded in one another, and all have been shaped by colonialism. The twenty-first-century use of genetic markers to weigh in heavily on these categories is a practice not disentangled from colonialism’s, which dates from the sixteenth century. The genetic knowledge that enables us to do this—and our intellectual and emotional receptiveness to doing it—are predicated on the power relations of colonial history. I’ve linked to their twitter feeds but their own writing

And Tallbear’s collaborative writing about various Indigenous imposters in the US provide her with a comparative view of Boyden’s claims.

The “Daniel’s Conference: In and Beyond the Law” -exploring Metis history & identity

A number of my colleagues presented at the “Daniels Conference: In and Beyond the Law”organized by Dr. Nathalie Tallbear and others at the Rupertsland Centre at the University of Alberta. This conference explored “the social and political implications of the recently decided Supreme Court of Canada Daniels decision.” I attended part of this conference presented by the University of Alberta’s Rupertsland Centre for Metis Studies – the name refers to the land owned by the Hudson’s Bay Company for two hundred years until from the late 1600s to 1869 and stretching out west and north in Canada from Ontario and south to include Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana and South Dakota – the 49th parallel border between the U.S. and what would become Canada was established in 1818.The days of talks and conversations by community members from across Canada and by scholars initiated powerful conversations and diverse perspectives on issues of identity and Indigeneity. The event was rich and brave. It was an opportunity to generate important debate among shared communities after the Daniels Decision opened up the notion of Metis identity to be more inclusive than some feel is just. Legal scholar Darcy Vermette outlines what is at stake:

Examining Daniels from a Métis perspective helps in identifying how the ‘Métis’ are constructed in law. While the court tries not to venture into a restrictive definition of ‘Métis,’ the decision tends towards characterizations of ‘Métis’ in terms of racial mixing. This focus on mixing is troubling for Métis people who see themselves not as a mixing of races, but as distinctive political and cultural communities.

And in his humorous presentation Chris Andersen outlined how the changes marked by the Daniels Decision would especially impact hermeneutics – how is the decision interpreted by various communities and what is at stake in the stories that emerge about identity.

After hearing from many at the Daniel’s conference and reading through the excellent twitter feed about the Boyden controversy dominated especially by talented Indigenous women like Chelsea Vowel, Marilyn Dumont, Kim Tallbear, and others, what do I conclude? We need to listen more and read more and publish more and hire more Indigenous teachers and writers and scholars to contribute to our public cross-cultural awareness.

So many Indigenous voices today speak out with the expertise of experience and education about the complexity of Indigenous identity and the proliferation of “ethnic fraud. ” Many have been denounced as self-interested while hypotheses are promoted by white people with little knowledge or insight. Part of this can be attributed to unacknowledged racist arrogance but the other part is a simple denial of expertise and knowledge. Quite a common attitude in these post-fact post-Trump election days that attribute too much weight to false news. But when one listens and reads, it is impossible to dismiss the many encounters provoked by the Boyden controversy with the thoughtful work of history, science, politics and social theory developed by my Indigenous colleagues and others.

On Agnotology & Ignoranced

Joseph Boyden appears to be going on with his writing business as usual except for his commitment to not speaking out as an Indigenous person about policy issues because he was “too vocal in speaking out on too many Indigenous issues.” One of his significant public roles was as Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner comes home to roost.
There has been resistance to critics’ insights on social media and in the press. Naysayers to Boyden’s interests are described as envious and self-interested. In one strange loop of argument, to refute DNA as sole evidence of Indigenous identity is to shrink the number of potential Indigenous persons in Canada. And to potentially shrink the number of Indigenous persons claiming identity is to risk comparison with the genocidal impulses of colonialism.
The word agnotology “comes from agnosis, the neoclassical Greek word for ignorance or ‘not knowing’, and ontology, the branch of metaphysics which deals with the nature of being. Agnotology is the study of wilful acts to spread confusion and deceit, usually to sell a product or win favour.” – Isn’t this part of the whitelash response to the Joseph Boyden controversy. The willful deafness to insight and knowledge promoted by a community ignored and diminished in so many other Canadian contexts.Take the case of Globe & Mail columnist Konrad Yakabuski who writes:

“No one can deny that Mr. Boyden embraced the aboriginal experience with humility and sincerity. His only sin was showing too much enthusiasm for a native heritage he may or may not have exaggerated. But he was merely reconstructing, as many of us do, his own personal identity from fragments from the past that he may have previously neglected or under-appreciated. He never sought special privileges that the state or individual band councils confer on First Nations members.

This does seem true on the surface. But what he leaves out are the unearned special privileges and cultural and actual capital afforded him by his false claims.
Yakabuski gets himself into hyperbolic hot water when he uses the inflammatory term “lynching” to describe the critical effects of questioning Boyden’s identity.
And that leads us towards another history of racism and patterns of capture and migration – the enslavement of Africans that underpin ongoing injustices in many countries including our own where African Canadians who continue to suffer grievous exclusions and acts of inhumanity as documented by many African Canadian writers, scholars and artists including Toronto journalist and activist Trevor Cole in this 2015 Toronto Life article “The Skin I’m In” – the title of his new CBC documentary to be released tonight as I revise this writing.

On the Responsibility of Settlers

Whose responsibility is it to explore these issues? I would argue it is up to all of us to read and inform ourselves about what is it at stake Peggy Blair, a mystery novelist who committed her law career to Indigenous law, argues:

For those rushing to Boyden’s defence, I would suggest they exercise a bit of care. We have to listen to what indigenous people are saying. As settlers, we hold enormous power. We have a responsibility to be cautious before we accord prominence to someone to speak about indigenous issues. As tweeter Tom Fortington said, it’s too much to put the entire burden of accountability on First Nations.
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Afterword

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I remain uncertain about what the outcome of this affiar It seems possible that the controversy has lead to Joseph Boyden’ostracization from some segments of the Indigenous community. Boyden’s skills as a writer remain distinguished and he has many admirers. Including those who wrote poblically about friendship and community.
My first impulse to write about Joseph Boyden came when he spoke out through Margaret Atwood to identify the writer Steven Galloway as adopted and Indigenous. Galloway is a terrific writer and former head of the Creative Writing program at the University of British Columbia.Galloway was dismissed for his alarming behaviour that included charges of harassment. This dismissal procedure had been examined thoroughly by a former BC Supreme Court judge and still the University of British Columbia decided to pursue the course of action. At this moment, a formal grievance procedure is unfolding within the UBC Faculty Association to determine whether proper procedures and due cause informed his dismissal.
The concern voiced by what came to be known as his “CanLit” friends came with many critiques. One of the serious critiques had to do with an episode worthy of cable drama tv. But it was also entirely understandable. Fearing Galloway might be suicidal on a trip alone to the eastern U.S., a UBC administrator panicked and called the police to try to intervene. While this may seem uncalled for or even tragicomic in retrospect, I cannot second guess anyone acting in the interests of someone else they feel might be subject to suicidal ideation. My own father suicided at 48 and I can’t help but think that with contemporary resources and an interventionist understanding of mental illness, he might have been saved.
What upset many about Boyden’s intervention to save the perpetrator convicted by his union of egregious behaviour, is that it ignored the victim/survivors, dismissed the work of a female BC judge, undermined the due process of the faculty union, and played nepotistic favours where justice seeking should have been called for. And according to writer and disability rights activist Dorothy Palmer, this also might have been a ruse to manipulate the university into settling or reinstating Galloway into his formal position.
What upsets me is observing what appears from the outside to be abuse of cultural authority and power. For the story of Steven Galloway becomes implicated in a cultural narrative of belief that only runs one way. Witness the judges who have been dismissed for telling women to keep their knees together to avoid rape. Or the judge who concluded a catatonic woman was the agent in her own demise when a taxi driver raped her even though be caught in the act by a policeman.
Or the one in five women who report to police only to be interrogated rather than interviewed and deauthorized into a place where the police can simply “unfound” the report, not count it in statistical analysis of sexual assault in Canada and even worse, not take into custody the perpetrator who in all likelihood, considering the statitistics about repeat offenders, will not even receive a cautionary note.
Meanwhile in British Columbia, students on campus are sexually assaulted by a a repeat offender at the University of Victoria and at Simon Fraser University and no action is taken by the university in the case of SFU. Nor is any action taken by the police. The perpetrator of multiple sexual assaults continues to amuse himself in Vancouver pubs where women remain at risk.
The mobilization of Galloway’s Indigenous identity sparked critical fightback on twitter and in written commentary elsewhere. And it also sparked two people who had collected information about Joseph Boyden’s shifting identity to action. Several people forwarded anonymous packages of research to APTN who then took up the investigation and developed their own researched report on Joseph Boyden’s history.

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