News

A Concordia Guest Speaker Said Cree Nation Members 'Suffered Less' In Residential Schools

A Concordia program director apologized for the speaker's statements.

A Concordia Guest Speaker Said Cree Nation Members 'Suffered Less' In Residential Schools

Concordia students have called out a speaker in a First Peoples Studies class who said Cree nation members "suffered less" in the residential school system.

On social media, students and the program director have condemned the content of McGill Professor Emerita Toby Morantz's lecture.

In a statement shared with MTL Blog, Morantz defended her record and said that she "was not referring to [the] individual suffering" of residential school victims and survivors.

What are Concordia students and faculty saying?

Terrence Duff was one of the students present at the lecture.

"Yesterday had to walk out of class because we had a guest speaker who tried to convince us that James Bay Cree suffered less from the Residential school and that the Cree benefit from the Residential school and fur trade," Duff wrote in a highly-circulated Facebook post, shared here with permission.

"I spoke up and she down right tried to say I was wrong when I tried to correct her."

Terrence called Morantz's lecture and research "upsetting and discouraging."

Once day after Terrence published the Facebook post, the First People Studies program shared a letter in which program Director Catherine Richardson said Morantz had been "improperly vetted."

She called the McGill professor's statements "ill-informed, racist, hateful and inaccurate" and said Morantz "violated the dignity of the students, with prejudice, stereotyping and historical inaccuracies to advance a hateful perspective."

"I am mortified by the harm that was caused and that people in positions of institutional stature can abuse power so unethically and destructively," Richardson concluded.

Duff appreciated her response and promised further action.

"Her and the department's apology means a lot to me as a University student," Duff wrote in a subsequent Facebook post.

"We will move forward with an official complaint letter concerning Toby Morantz who was our guest lecturer and send it off [to] McGill University. We will not let this go!"

What is Morantz's response?

Morantz told MTL Blog that Richardson "was not in the class, never spoke with [her] and certainly has not read [her] books and articles."

She says that when she claimed James Bay Cree "suffered less" in the residential school system, she was "using suffer in the sense of 'endure'" and referring to changes in government policy.

"When I realized it was a trigger word, I repeated over and over again that I was not referring to individual suffering but to the differences in the school systems."

Morantz expressed a desire for the conversation to return to the history of the residential school program.

The Hope for Wellness Help Line offers immediate mental health counselling and crisis intervention to all Indigenous peoples across Canada 24/7. Those who may need support can call 1-855-242-3310, or visit their website to chat.

The Indian Residential School Survivors Society Emergency Crisis Line is available across Canada 24/7. Those who may need support can call 1-866-925-4419.