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Professor’s racist comments not about academic freedom

UNB sociologist Ricardo Duchesne’s comments on Asian populations marring Canada’s European character read like some relic of the past.

Peruse through Dr. Duchesne’s long bibliography and you’ll find no end to titles which champion the West as a beacon of light and salvation for the rest of the world.

And he has the audacity to surmise that we’re scared he’s talking. All these years, some group of us have been keeping secret that ‘white is right’ and he’s spilling the beans.

What’s actually scary is that no one has stepped up to publicly declaim what Duchesne is preaching. No voice has publicly called out Duchesne for evangelizing racism while veiling it as a critique of multiculturalism.

Instead, we’ve heard defenses of academic freedom. The term is being used in the same way Americans use free speech: “by golly, I got a right to say what I wanna!” Academic freedom is not the first amendment. Rather, this liberty within the institution is the result of years of collective bargaining, conflicts with university administrations, and campaigns by faculty unions.

Academic freedom is a vital institution to how the university functions. It maintains an atmosphere where knowledge can constantly be tested, refined, and produced. There was a time when a professor could be removed from a university if they criticized the administration or the government which an administration aligned with. There have been arguments that UNB was even a front of academic freedom in Canada with the 1968 Strax Affair.

Dr. Norman Strax was removed from his position at UNB for having bussed students across the border to attend an anti-Vietnam war rally. He also held a protest at the Harriet Irving Library against the mandatory use of photo ID. To make the long, short: it was eventually decided through a series of events that, in the words of Kanye, one man shouldn’t have all that power. That a professor’s employment or position should not be threatened by vocal criticism or opposing politics.

Fast forward to 2014/15 and we have Dr. Duchesne using the long fight for freedom to lament that one might see a lot of Asians on their way to school in Vancouver. That a European heritage perpetuated by colonialism might be dying. Or, that us whites need to get it together and be proud of all the land we’ve taken.

God fuckin’ forbid.

As Dr. Duchesne’s comments were being publicised on the CBC, AUNBT president Miriam Jones was in the same article discussing how academic freedom is under threat, that it is “something to go to the wall for.”

I am wholeheartedly on board with Dr. Jones. However, I don’t think that the default when a professor spouts racism should be to champion academic freedom. The default should be to show to the public what academic freedom is and does.

Instead of espousing how vital academic freedom is in the face of bigotry, the university, specifically Dr. Duchesne’s own department, should perform academic freedom. Whether this be opposing views being put out through media or through a colloquium, we should work to show that academic freedom means discussion. The public should see that we, as an institution, are not gathering around Dr. Duchesne to shelter him. Instead, we give him the space to speak and then immediately renounce his bigotry.

If we don’t act out academic freedom, then we stand still and defend people like Dr. Duchesne, we allow them to have a platform.

By not actively playing out what it means to work in an atmosphere of freedom of thought means to implicitly agree to allow bigotry to be vomited into the public realm. The foundations of academia are critique and knowledge. If the institution does not utilize academic freedom properly, harmful remarks like Dr. Duchesne’s make it to becoming knowledge. However, if we involve ourselves in the discussion, such vitriolic comments won’t stand the refining fire of critique.

To close off this week’s column, I want to step away from my argument on how academic freedom should act and take a moment to apologize for Dr. Duchesne’s comments.

I am a long time student of UNB. I believe in what this university can be, what it can do. One of our professors has made comments which ignore the fact that our nation put Japanese-Canadians in internment camps, maintained eugenics programs into the eighties, played a very real role in slavery, and established itself on stolen land. This is a history I am not proud of. A history I refuse to be proud of.

For Dr. Duchesne’s comments, I am sorry.

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29 Comments

  1. FauxCapitalist Reply

    The Multiculturalism Act of 1988 recognizes the right of “all members of Canadian society to preserve, enhance and share their cultural heritage,” and Dr. Duchesne was exercising his right to promote his European Canadian heritage. The right doesn’t apply only to “visible minorities,” and if he is being racist for expressing concern over the ethnic and cultural character of British Columbia changing from European to Asian in a single generation, then the Natives who were here when European settlers arrived en masse were also being racist for wanting to preserve their ethnic and cultural heritage in the face of an overwhelming demographic shift, and I don’t hear anyone arguing that point as a matter of consistency.

  2. nerdimist Reply

    It’s “no one man should have all that power,” not “one man shouldn’t have all that power.” If you’re going to drop pop culture references, do it right.

  3. TravisWysote Reply

    FauxCapitalist It isn’t a matter of consistency. It’s a false equivalency. Canada’s “European ethnic character” was established through genocide and ethnic cleansing. That should be denounced by all — even ethnic Europeans. That’s not what Duchesne is doing. He’s proud of those genocidal policies and their outcome because, to him, they are evidence that European cultures are superior. Indigenous peoples’ resolve to preserve their cultures in the face of genocide and settler entitlement is in no way comparable to a white supremacist’s lament for a white Canada.

  4. FauxCapitalist Reply

    TravisWysote FauxCapitalist Travis, what you’re referring to happened long ago and most Natives were killed by non-resistance to diseases which Europeans had built up an immunity to the hard way, like the Bubonic Plague which wiped out a third of the population. If European Canadians living today have so much to feel guilty about, why is Canada a top destination for people all around the world to come to and live in with its three-quarters European Canadian majority, and what was a country founded by Europeans with a 96% majority in 1971?

  5. TravisWysote Reply

    FauxCapitalist TravisWysote My response was about your false equivalency. I didn’t bring up guilt. I did mention pride though. And I don’t think that the history of Canada’s ethnic makeup is anything to be proud about. Unless, of course, you’re proud of the British scalping proclamation that resulted in the wholesale murder of Mi’gmaq men, women and children, the use of starvation to ethnically cleanse the plains for white settlers, the bogus policies that prevented Indigenous peoples from using farming equipment that they bought with their own capital, the residential schools that forcibly sterilized young Indigenous girls and women while conducting “nutritional experiments”, the ecological racism that enables Canadians to live by a first-world standard when there’s Indigenous peoples many of whom live in third world conditions to this day by design. By design. These things don’t have the plausible deniability that diseases do — though we know that starvation and disease go hand in hand. Unless these faceless, evil Asian “immigrants” who are destroying the ethnic character of Western Canada are engaging in any of the above against Canada’s European-descended population, you should honestly feel guilty about trying to create an equivalence between the treatment of Canada’s European-descended settlers with Indigenous peoples you know… “as a matter of consistency.”

  6. CB Zolfberg Reply

    You’re missing the point, academic freedom itself is a product of European culture and history. It didn’t come to us from Africa or Asia. Anything which now destabilizes that history, such as multiculturalism, poses a threat to academic freedom and freedom generally. The fact you don’t realize this shows you haven’t been paying attention in your history course. 

    I, for one, would be proud to have Prof. Duchesne as a teacher.

  7. moxnisi Reply

    I am quite surprised at the narrative used by Mr O’Donnell. Being a student, he should be aware of academic freedom and also, he should be more informed  about Canada’s history.
    The “stolen land” slogan is senseless as, if we have a look at the map of the world, we could easily say that every nation had “stolen” the land from another one.
    Calling professor Duchesne “racist” is just an attempt to silence an opinion that goes against the state ideology of multiculturalism and diversity seen as our “strength”.
    Totalitarian regimes have tried to do the same: silence any critical or opposing view that went against their view.
    “If you are not with us, you are against us” seems to be the mindset taking over Canada and our universities.
    Today, “racist” is used as a tool to silence any opposition, any opinion challenging the Marxist views.
    Are Marxists afraid of challenges?
    The day opinions like professor Duchesne’s will be shut down will mark the end of our society and the beginning of neo-Dark Ages.

  8. sallierelc Reply

    Throwing around labels such as politically correct accusations of ‘racism’ in an attempt to discredit the views of Prof. Duchesne is incredibly shallow, empty, and conformist. It reminds me of Communism. I thought that as “a long time student of UNB” you would have developed some sort of proper argumentation for your opinions rather than mere ad hominem attacks. I would be embarrassed to call myself a “long time student” if I were you. You should take some classes in logic.

    To paint European Canadians who are proud of their ethnic identity and heritage with a bad light by cherry-picking history for only the negative is incredibly naiive, bias, and typically Marxist. We could do the same for all ethnic peoples and discredit anyone living today who has an ethnic identity by constantly bombarding them with negative historical events from their ancestral past and then claim that only these particular events define who they are totally and completely today. But it is your freedom to label anyone that does not agree with your opinions as ‘racist’ – a boring out-worn Marxist narrative that came out of the 1960s and sought the destruction of Western civilization. It is your freedom to write this Leftist slander that has no substance. It is your freedom to remain ignorant and narrow-minded and, like a prejudiced child in a playground, name-call those you just don’t understand.

  9. LeonardStudnitz Reply

    Wow. This opinion piece is a textbook case of ’emotions trump reason’, an approach more fitting for the political arena than a university seminar or newspaper at that. It does not even pretend to address the contents of Mr Duchesne’s articles: the facts, the reasoning, the evidence, the theories, the empirical observations.
    Rather, Mr. O’Donnell assumes that the reader follows his judgment that we are dealing with “racism” even though he does not give the slighest clue why it should be racist to call a fact a fact, namely that Vancouver has undergone a tremendous demographical transformation in recent years, away from European Canadians to Asian Canadians. Or perhaps rather to Canadian Asians given that many hold double passports, and have their families and work still based in Asia.

    Why should this transformation be considered beyond the pale and not being worth a rational, scholarly discussion, one which Mr Duchesne has been providing?

    This circular reasoning in Mr. O’Donnell’s accusations is obvious: He defends academic freedom, though not against “racism”. This is certainly what we all can agree upon. But what racism constitutes, he claims to have the definitional sovereignty in a monological way, thereby cancelling the principle of academic freedom all the same through the backdoor.

    I hope for other students of UNB facts, a willingness to go beyond political labelling and a critical mind come first. This is what I would at least expect a university to teach its students.

  10. dcshoes424 Reply

    This article is a illiterate piece of garbage. Perhaps the writer is one of the newly arrived from China? These left wing bleeding heart liberals just get sicker every day. What a shame that our universities are being over run by the left wing liberal agenda. They are so ignorant they can not see that there are other views and opinions in this Country. The truth is the majority of real Candians agree with Duchesne 100%.

  11. RachelBryant1 Reply

    moxnisi RachelBryant1 Yes, I can, but this isn’t my homework — it’s yours. You say, “Today,
    ‘racist’ is used as a tool to silence any opposition, any opinion
    challenging the Marxist views. Are Marxists afraid of challenges?” To
    me, this suggests that the word “Marxist” doesn’t mean what you think it
    means. And yet the idea of this Marxist opposition seems central to what you’re saying. So if I’m wrong, and you’re right, please explain how you are
    using the word “Marxist” here. Or are you afraid of challenges?

  12. moxnisi Reply

    dcshoes424 Having … Kanye as reference point and later on, continuing in a very “academic” manner  with “God fuckin’ forbid.” need no further comments.

  13. Thodoran Reply

    TravisWysote FauxCapitalist

    This reply reduces the entire history of the Europeans who founded Canada to their treatment of the natives, ignoring the incredible hard work required for the European settlers to build a modern civilization in a wild country; it downplays the amazing success of Europeans in creating one of the best nations in the world, all handed to Travis who can only complain without knowing what it means to work as a farmer in early Canada. 

    Travis then says that Asian immigrants are not doing to European Canadians what the Europeans did to the natives; but, why should current generations be held responsible for what many generations did long ago, and why is he assuming that the current Asians arriving in Canada do no come from true racist cultures in the way they mistreat, to this day, such minorities as the Tibetans and Uighurs, who are being dispossessed of their lands? Why should liberal democratic native Canadians be replaced by Asians coming from racist cultures?

  14. Thodoran Reply

    RachelBryant1 sallierelc

    I take it that sallierelc means “cultural Marxist” by “Marxist”. Google the term “cultural Marxist” — it is a term in current use to refer to promoters of diversity, multiculturalism, mass immigration, feminism, postmodernism, and corporate global culture. The opponents of “cultural Marxism” are the ethno-cultural nationalists who really want to preserve the identity and heritage of the diverse peoples of the world against the creation of a uniform consumer global citizen who is diverse only in superficial ways and has no roots or homeland.

  15. Working Class Reply

    This article displays the amount of hate and the double standard European Canadians are faced with. They should have every right to organised in their own ethnic interest just like every other ethnicity in Canada to refuse them or to shame them by name calling like this article has done is nothing short of true racism. The only reason that Mr. Duchesne’s article has caused so much strife is because he is of European descent. All other groups are able to protect and voice their ethnic interests and heritage without facing any persecution.

  16. RachelBryant1 Reply

    dcshoes424 Actually, most people would have a problem with the way you’re using “newly arrived from China” as a pejorative phrase.

  17. RachelBryant1 Reply

    Thodoran TravisWysote FauxCapitalist 
    This reply reduces the entire history of the “Europeans
    who founded Canada” to their “amazing success . . . in creating one
    of the best nations in the world” — a tired and conventional narrative that has been used to
    preserve privilege and the status quo in this country since its inception.
    “Why should current generations be held responsible for
    what many generations did long ago?” Because “those generations” put in place a
    system that affords preferential treatment to “European Canadians” in matters of access, income,
    housing, electoral representation, etc. “Current generations” of “European
    Canadians” enjoy unearned privileges in Canada by virtue of their “European
    Canadianness.” See Travis’s comments on the comparative conditions in which many Indigenous peoples are made to live in Canada.

    “Why should liberal democratic native Canadians be replaced
    by Asians coming from racist cultures?” What do you mean by “replaced”? Do you
    think someone is going to steal your identity? Take
    up residence in your body?

  18. Thodoran Reply

    RachelBryant1 Thodoran TravisWysote FauxCapitalist

    Conventional narrative? What you say is what everyone says in our universities and mainstream media. You are basically saying that Whites are privileged if they are successful; many have been and are still successful because they are the majority, but all affirmative action programs are intended to benefit non-Whites; try getting hired in a place owned by Chinese or Sikhs. Are Chinese privileged in China, Japanese in Japan, Koreans in Korean — get the point? Yet only in European created countries we have affirmative programs for non-Europeans; check every job opening in our universities, all of them emphasize that minorities will be given special consideration. 

    Your last comment is just child play from a privileged leftist white female who enjoys collecting status moral points by putting down her own people. Natives need to solve their own problems rather than relying on handouts from whiteys who have kept them in a state of dependency.

  19. FauxCapitalist Reply

    Thodoran RachelBryant1 TravisWysote FauxCapitalist Thorodan, to back up what you said about special employment treatment for minorities, our Employment Equity Act is even applied to private companies doing business with our federal government (most big ones), and I saw the discrimination against White Canadians, in that if you are a visible minority and don’t identify as such, Human Resources is required to determine the percentage of visible minorities in the workforce and prove that they are taking steps to hire according to that proportion, so long as the applicant is qualified (so our government says), but if there aren’t enough qualified visible minority applicants, they will feel compelled to hire some unqualified ones to not be accused of discrimination, and all things being equal, there’s an incentive to discrimination against White Canadians based on their race.

  20. TravisWysote Reply

    Thodoran RachelBryant1 TravisWysote FauxCapitalist “Natives need to solve their own problems rather than relying on handouts from whiteys who have kept them in a state of dependency.” 
    Tell me — how wasn’t the entire continent a goddamned handout?

  21. RachelBryant1 Reply

    Thodoran RachelBryant1 TravisWysote FauxCapitalist 
    “What you say is what everyone says in our universities and mainstream media.” You clearly have no idea what is said in the mainstream media. But bonus intellectual points for parroting Glenn Beck here.
    “You are basically saying that Whites are privileged if they are successful” — that’s actually not what I said, but wouldn’t life be easier if everyone were as dumb as they are in your paranoid, defensive imagination?
    “Your last comment is just child play from a privileged leftist white
    female who enjoys collecting status moral points by putting down her own
    people.” Who are my people? Are you my people? I want new people. (In all seriousness, all of humanity are “my people” — because I’m not a psychopath.)

  22. FauxCapitalist Reply

    RachelBryant1 Thodoran TravisWysote FauxCapitalist Rachel, the notion of “white privilege,” as it is applied today in Canada in the year 2015, is a flawed notion. A privilege is something that is granted and can be taken away, so who granted this privilege that is said to exist now, and what is it, exactly? I’m only responsible for my own actions, and I never granted anyone “white privilege,” nor did I ever have the authority to do so. There is, still, great social standing to being White in most places in this world, except Zimbabwe, of course. As for any government-granted “white privilege,” I don’t see it with the employment laws — in fact, it’s the opposite, as I mentioned in another comment. And the economic, academic and professional success of Chinese Canadians makes the “white privilege” argument look foolish, as the Chinese accomplished what they did through their initiative, strong ethnic support networks and also by using the institutions that their White Canadian non-oppressors built for them.

  23. RachelBryant1 Reply

    FauxCapitalist RachelBryant1 Thodoran TravisWysote 
    I already covered this. Allow me to basically copy and paste my comments from above, where I explained that the “European Canadians” who created Canada established a
    system that affords preferential treatment to “European Canadians” in matters of access to services, income,
    housing, electoral representation, etc., etc. Because of this, “European
    Canadians” today enjoy unearned privileges in this country by virtue of their “European
    Canadianness.” See Travis’s comments on the comparative conditions in which many Indigenous peoples are made to live in Canada. If you’re still struggling with these ideas, you might check out the section on native and settler towns from Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth. Unfortunately, you cannot exonerate yourself just by saying that you don’t feel responsible.

    You (and others here) accuse your opponents in this debate of being unwilling to have rational discussions on these points. And yet you refuse to read what others are saying or to thoughtfully process other theories and ideas. 
    Your common refrain is that people are “afraid” of your ideas. But no one is afraid of your ideas. Your ideas are old and boring (and yet somehow still offensive). And no one is trying to silence you — your ideas are engaged with, scrutinized, and debunked. Repeatedly, your misrepresentations of history and humanity are exposed. This is the opposite of silence.

    You are essentially saying that systemic inequalities don’t exist because you don’t want them to. There is no debating with that kind of closed mindedness, so if you’ll excuse me, I have to bow out of this conversation.
    In closing, I’d just like to say how stupid your above point about Chinese Canadians is.

  24. Thodoran Reply

    Bev Bramble Exactly, you don’t offer a single argument against the many points made here supporting Duchesne; it seems that to you it is about imposing Marxist doctrine on students without giving them a chance to hear an alternative viewpoint by suppressing freedom of expression. Shame on you!

  25. Bev Bramble Reply

    Thodoran Bev Bramble Duchesne is not using academic as intended, which is to follow your research wherever it leads and share it, however controversial your findings might be. Instead, he is hiding behind academic freedom, using it as a bully platform to espouse conviction-based views that have no basis in fact or evidence. The public defence of him by academics should point out that although they defend academic freedom, what Duchesne is doing is an abuse of it. I am not an academic but rather an academic support staff employee.

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