The heroic “firemen” in Ray Bradbury’s famous dystopian novel “Fahrenheit 451” are actually responsible for starting fires – specifically, they answer calls to round up and burn books.
Last week, Radio Canada reported that a school board responsible for 30 schools in Ontario took on the role of Bradbury’s firemen.
The board has destroyed nearly 5,000 children’s books over the past couple of years “in an effort to reconcile with the First Nations,” or Canadian Indians, the outlet reported.
The effort included a “flame purification” ceremony in 2019, which led to the incineration of about 30 books that had been banned “for educational purposes,” Radio Canada reported.
“The ashes were used as fertilizer to plant a tree and thus turn from negative to positive,” a board video explained. “We bury the ashes of racism, discrimination, and stereotypes in the hope that we will grow up in an inclusive country where all can live in prosperity and security.”
Radio Canada noted all of the schools were supposed to have flame purification ceremonies but delayed them because of the pandemic. But school leaders also were concerned about an adverse reaction from parents and some teachers.
Still, the book banners did not fear the possible outrage enough to stop the overall mission.
Radio Canada noted that a total of 4,716 books were tossed from those school libraries, an average of 157 books per school.
The books included comic books, novels, and encyclopedias.
One reason some of the books are targeted for removal is their use of the word “Indian” to describe Indigenous Canadians. Another book was removed because one theme was alcoholism among Indians.
A biography of the French explorer Étienne Brûlé was booted because of its cover artwork, which featured Brûlé navigating a forest in the company of several Indians.
Books written by non-Indian authors were chucked unless they had input from Indigenous Canadians because the censorship advocates believed they were written from a Eurocentric perspective.
The mantra is “Never about us without us,” Suzy Kies, co-chairwoman of the ruling Liberal Party’s Indigenous Peoples Commission, told Radio Canada.
“We are not trying to erase history,” she said, “we are trying to correct it.”
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