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'Racist' book distributed to BC grade one students

Two maritime provinces declined to distribute a book to students saying it was racist and promotes stereotypes of First Nations people, but in British Columbia schools are giving it for free to students in grade one.

The Canadian Children's Book Centre and the TD Bank Fiancial Group announced on Nov. 13 they are providing more than 500,000 copies of Let's Go! The Story of Getting from There to Here to school kids in Canada.

New Brunswick refused to distribute the book after curriculum consultants and an Alberta university professor advised against it, the St. John Telegraph-Journal reported. "The representations of aboriginal people are stereotypes--everyone looks the same--and they are all depicted in the past, with feathers on their heads,” the paper quoted the province's Department of Education saying. "The aboriginal peoples are represented in passive roles, waiting for 'progress' to come and 'better' them.”

A ministry official was also quoted saying Europe is depicted as “heavenly” with a sunburst behind it while the First Nations people look generic.

Nova Scotia also refused to distribute the book.

Let's Go! tells the story of transportation, beginning with people who walked: “With soft footfalls they followed food, hunted herds, wandering through the wilderness.”

On page six the Europeans arrived. “One day, blown on strong ocean winds from the lands of the kings and the queens, sailing ships slid swiftly to shore,” the book says. “The men who explored found riches in fishes, riches in furs, and riches in timber from trees.”

B.C.'s acting education minister, Moira Stilwell, said it is up to each school district whether or not they want to distribute the book. “I'm not familiar with the book,” she said. “I haven't read it. The bottom line is school districts are responsible for resourcing what goes into the schools in their districts including books, so really it's their decision.”

Any further questions should be put to the TD Bank, she said.

A media contact for TD and the Children's Book Centre did not answer questions by publishing time.

The Telegraph-Journal quoted a New Brunswick official saying, "It's our responsibility to not perpetuate stereotypes."

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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