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

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Published October 1, 2022 at 5:47 pm

A candidate for a seat on the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board has professed the belief that colonialism was good actually. - via HWDSB

A candidate running for a seat on the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, the largest in the city, has taken an opponent to task for promoting an article about the “benefits of colonialism”

The candidate, Catharine Kronas, who is already controversial for her campaign to “stop woke,” took to Twitter back in July to share the article ‘The Case for Colonialism.’ Her 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 asserted the article, which argues colonialism is both an objective good and legitimate, was not properly peer-reviewed before publishing. In it, Gilley argues colonialism should make a comeback. Critics took the article to task as “academic clickbait” and compared it to former President Donald Trump’s tweets.

Third World Quarterly later retracted the article, prompting more controversy. However, it was later published by a conservative non-profit, the National Association of Scholars which routinely rails against “cancel culture” and similar culture war topics.

Gilly’s article very much flies in the face of the academic consensus on colonialism. Numerous studies and histories have inextricably linked settler colonialism to genocide, including both the deaths of peoples and their cultures.

In the Canadian context, the worst example of the horrors of colonialism, though there are many, came 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 people. The residential school system would last more than the next 100 years. Roughly 30 per cent of all Indigenous children, around 150,000, would attend the schools where the were systemically stripped of their languages and cultural practices.

Many of these children faced horrendous mental, physical and sexual abuse. Many more were exploited for agricultural labour instead of educated. Food was often barely edible. One school, The Mohawk Institute 36 kilometers from Hamilton, was dubbed “the Mush Hole” after the food served. Disease often ran rampant through the schools killing many.

The suspected or confirmed graves of 2,451 children have been discovered at the sites of former residential 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, BC. When she got to the school she was stripped of her clothes including an orange shirt. After she shared her story the shirt became a symbol of the cultures stipped from Indigenous peoples through colonialism.

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

On the second such formal holiday, Noble took to Twitter to remind Hamiltonians about Kronas’ views on colonialism. This support is baked into her campaign which has routinely railed against critical race theory (CRT) in schools..

Kronas believes CRT is a “Marxist” attempt to undermine “liberal colour-blind principle of equality.” She said “Although proponents of CRT call it “Anti-Racism”, in reality, they are calling for active racial discrimination and segregation between students of different races.”

Additionally she has professed a belief that Hamilton school’s move to anti-racism action is discriminatory against white people.

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

The school board election will be held on October 24.

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