I am deeply dismayed that The Walrus chose to publish “Tarnished Legacy” (September/October 2022), wherein Mark Abley addresses Duncan Campbell Scott’s twin legacies as architect of Indigenous genocide and canonical Canadian poet. Abley describes Scott’s role as deputy superintendent general of Indian Affairs as “his day job,” when Scott was not one of a choir but the ringmaster of a sinister structure of Indigenous erasure, violence, and dehumanization. Abley encourages readers to appreciate the sublime in Scott’s poetry, a task made much easier when one is not subsumed by the recovery of family from residential school and the legacy of intergenerational trauma. Abley’s article claims that only a “small portion” of Scott’s writing deals with Indigenous peoples, overlooking that there are few others who produced such a gargantuan legacy of letters, reports, telegrams, and other departmental correspondence on the dispossession, surveillance, control, erasure, and colonial assimilation of Indigenous peoples. That—and not his “sublime” utterances—is his overwhelming legacy. Moreover, Abley describes Scott as having run his department with “glacial detachment,” when, in 1925, Scott responded to a Chief visiting him in Ottawa by insulting him and and kicking him out of his office. Two years later, all Indigenous peoples in Canada were legally banned from pursuing our rights. Frankly, the only “glacial detachment” at play is that which Canadian literature has toward its own legacy of violence against Indigenous peoples. But, of all of the transgressions of the article, the one that is most abhorrent is the choice to republish a part of a poem by Scott that is expressly racist and harmful toward Indigenous women. Publishing an article that downplays this legacy in order to create space for century-old poetry demonstrates Indigenous life and death as an insignificant inconvenience. Duncan Campbell Scott’s true legacy is lost and ignored by The Walrus.
Nupquʔa·kǂam̓ / Troy Sebastian
out of house and home
In “No Place to Live” (September/October 2022), Julia-Simone Rutgers reports on the dearth of affordable Canadian homes. As a bus driver who simply cannot afford to buy a condo—much less a house—in Vancouver, I propose that federal and provincial governments increase investments in the construction of housing co-operatives. I live in one, and while I don’t own my home, I have security in knowing that I can’t be evicted for faux or actual renovation. My rent goes toward running the co-op and paying its mortgages—without being excessive (some of my fellow members here are low income and have subsidized charges). Should I lose my job, there is an internal subsidy available. And, when I was stricken with COVID-19, countless neighbours dropped off food, drinks, and soup outside my door. That’s what living in a co-op is like: a community. How do we fix Canadian housing? By investing in housing co-operatives again, whether through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation or some other agency. By prioritizing secure rental apartments, not just affordable home ownership.
In “The New Separatist” (September/October 2022), Lisa Fitterman asks whether separatism now hinges on one radical-turned-mainstream politician, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, who is reframing independence as an opportunity to move forward with progressive policies. However, while issues of environmental justice or immigration reform can no longer be ignored in Quebec, it is unrealistic to think they can be addressed within the context of a separatist campaign. Independence movements have always relied on divisive us-versus-them narratives to further their agendas, cultivating a culture of anger. While it may be too soon to write off Quebec sovereignty, Nadeau-Dubois’s brand of “inclusive nationalism” is not the spark that will reignite the fire. Nadeau-Dubois will ultimately have to prioritize either social justice or sovereignty.