APTN National News
A University of Toronto education student says she was “disappointed” after finding wording similarities in a paragraph from a Canada Day opinion column by NDP MP Romeo Saganash and the introduction to a speech she recently delivered.
Erica Violet Lee, a Masters student at University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and author of moontimewarrior.com, said Saganash contacted her Sunday after she posted her concerns on Facebook. She said Saganash indicated he would be changing wording in the column published on July 1 by The Globe and Mail. He also said the mistake was made by an assistant.
“Just saw your post, I’ll contact my assistant who wrote the first draft and adjust accordingly,” wrote the Cree MP over Facebook messenger, according to a screen-grab provided to APTN. “Thanks for the heads up.”
Lee, a Cree woman from Saskatoon, said she is still waiting to hear back.
“I was disappointed when I saw my words used without my name. It is so important to cite and credit Indigenous women for our ideas and our work, whenever you find it. Our words are deeply personal,” she wrote in a statement to APTN. “He reached out to me (Sunday) and said it was his assistant who wrote the piece and he’d correct it and quote me properly. That was a day ago and it’s still sitting there.”
In a statement to APTN, Saganash said the mistake should not have happened.
“In drafting my letter on my thoughts on Canada 150, a mistake was made by which ideas that were expressed by someone else were not given proper credit. I take full responsibility for this omission and have taken steps to correct this. An important lesson should be taken from this. We should all make every effort to ensure that we give full credit for ideas. For too long, Indigenous people have had been without a voice and therefore I apologize for not giving Erica Violet Lee the credit she is due.”
The Globe and Mail did not respond to a request for comment as of this article’s posting.
The paragraph at issue is from Saganash’s Canada Day column titled, 150 years of cultural genocide: Today, like all days, is an insult.
“What does it mean to be safe and free in the context of a colonial state when it is celebrating its sesquicentennial? The front lines of Indigenous struggle are everywhere, now: from the prairies, boreal forests and rivers to city streets, in classrooms and in the buildings of Parliament. In a world where our very existence is criminalized and our presence is defiance, Indigenous people are forced every day to live in a world built by their colonizers,” said Saganash’s column.
Lee said some of the wording is exactly like what she wrote to introduce a keynote speech she delivered in March at the Centre for Indigenous Research, Culture, Language and Education student conference held at Carleton University. The speech was titled, Be Safe, Nicimos: Indigenous Freedom and Curiosity in the Wastelands.
“What does it mean to be safe and free in the context of a colonial state? The frontlines of Indigenous struggle are everywhere, now: from the prairies and rivers to city streets, and in classrooms. In a world where our movement is criminalized and our presence is resistance, Indigenous curiosity is radical vulnerability, memory and futurism. Travelling toward an Indigenous feminist conception of freedom, we reclaim our homes in the world,” read Lee’s introduction to her speech which was published to promote the event.
Sen. Lillian Dyck wrote on Facebook in response to Lee’s initial post that she hoped Saganash would respond to the concerns.
“It hurts deeply and causes justifiable anger. When someone did that to me, I felt like they had stolen my baby,” wrote Dyck, who is the first woman First Nation Senator ever named to the Upper Chamber. “It would be really bad if he doesn’t say something. It’s possible one of his assistants prepared a draft for him.”