‘Indigenize This’ article by Saint Mary’s University professor shocks Mi’kmaw family

‘My concern was that anything in that article alone, stood alone as racist and harmful’

Paula Marshall was appalled when she read the article, Indigenize This, written by John MacKinnon, a philosophy professor at Saint Mary’s University.

“His opinion of Indigenous people in Nova Scotia is a cause for concern because he is out there teaching and promoting his beliefs to other students that are attending his classes whether it is a form of blatant or subtle racism,” said Marshall.

The article criticizes diversity hiring, raising the Mi’kmaw flag, acknowledging unceded Mi’kmaw territory, and accommodating students whose first language is Mi’kmaw.

“Since failure to learn English can only jeopardize the prospects of the students themselves, why, petty cultural politics aside, is this tolerated?” he wrote in the article.

St. Mary's
Paula Marshall says her granddaughter was the subject of a controversial article by a Saint Mary’s professor. Photo: Angel Moore/APTN

The article refers to a student as “Q” who Marshall says is her grand-daughter.

Marshall, an alumni, encouraged her granddaughter Kendra Gould to attend the university of about 7,000 students, located in downtown Halifax.

Gould’s friends showed her the article last year.

“I read the article and I looked at them and I said, oh I’m Q, that’s me,” said Gould.

“And he talked about how I went to him saying I need a note taker in the course but I’m not through the disability centre because knowing Mi’kmaw is not a disability, I don’t have a disability, I just struggle keeping up with English,” said Gould.

Gould did not want to come forward until she graduated, she was afraid her other professors would know about the article and she would be judged.

“I waited until I graduated because I didn’t want other professors to label me but I also didn’t want them to think of me as a dumb student,” said Gould.

Indigenize This was published January 2019 in the newsletter of the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship which MacKinnon said he has been a member for the last 25 years.

St. Mary's
“I didn’t want other professors to label me,” says Kendra Gould on why she waited until after graduation to come forward. Photo: Angel Moore/APTN

Formed in 1992, SAFS is a non-profit organization and according to its website, its goal is “to maintain freedom in teaching, research and scholarship, and maintaining standards of excellence in academic decisions about students and faculty” and “we espouse equality of opportunity but oppose preferential treatment.”

MacKinnon would not agree to an interview but told APTN News in an email that he was mortified when he found out the student knew about the article and offered an apology.

He said had he known people at Saint Mary’s would read the article, “I am not sure I would have written anything, or if I had, I would have done more to conceal her identity.”

MacKinnon still opposes university’s “indigenizing” and accommodations given to Indigenous students.

“Being Mi’kmaq is no such reasonable ground” he said in his article.

Read the article here: Indigenize This

Marshall works in restorative justice and has recently been appointed to the provincial advice team to reform the Nova Scotia justice system.

She said Saint Mary’s University has not responded effectively.

Her family is asking for restorative justice, she said her granddaughter has been hurt and the Mi’kmaw community has been affected.

“This university though they promote diversity and talk about indigenizing, did not have actions to follow that up so there is shame as an alumni that they are not doing what they can to understand what’s happened and the impacts of colonialism in Nova Scotia,” said Marshall.

Saint Mary’s University declined an interview, they said the matter is under an internal review and they cannot comment.

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