Vancouver City Councillor and New Brunswick Professor Locked in Feud over ‘White Apologies’

Brian Hutchinson, National Post, January 12, 2015

Kerry Jang is a University of British Columbia psychiatry professor and a Vancouver city councillor. He had never heard of University of New Brunswick sociology professor Ricardo Duchesne until last June. That’s when, he says, Prof. Duchesne sent an email to him and other council colleagues of Asian descent.

Prof. Duchesne directed them to an essay he’d written in reaction to proposed reconciliation efforts under review at the time by Vancouver council; these related to the treatment of Chinese immigrants in the city between the years 1886 and 1947.

Prof. Duchesne wrote derisively of the proposed measures. His essay, titled Chinese Head Tax, White Apologies, and ‘Inclusive Redress,’ declared that redress efforts–including possible financial compensation to ancestors and classroom education–have “the goal of taking Canada away from the Europeans and transforming the nation into a multicultural and multiracial society.”

He also speculated that “The Europeans [would not only have to] apologize but admit that their history is a sordid tale of genocide, and then hand over the lands in which this ‘sordid exclusion’ was played out to those who were excluded.”

Mr. Jang says he was appalled. He had an email exchange with Prof. Duchense, and a string of accusations and counter-accusations followed, with allegations of racism directed at the UNB instructor. Mr. Jang told a local reporter that with the likes of Prof. Duchesne on its faculty, he “would not feel safe” visiting UNB.

He wrote to senior UNB administrators, claiming that Prof. Duchesne’s “blog postings and e-mails” are “troublesome in that they go beyond fair comment and abuse the privilege of academic freedom by their pejorative nature that is based on poor scholarship.”

Mr. Jang asked the university to review the matter. Which the university did. Last week, responding to media inquiries about the matter, a UNB vice-president indicated the school stands by its professor and his controversial views.

“Academic freedom is a foundational principle of university life,” Robert MacKinnon said in a written statement from his UNB office. “Often, such academic debate expresses views that may be perceived as controversial and unpopular.”

The statement did not mention Prof. Duchesne by name. It did not explain why the professor sent his email to Mr. Jang and to other Vancouver city councillors of Asian background, nor did it indicate what steps the university had taken as part of its review.

The university’s terse response has satisfied neither Mr. Jang nor Prof. Duchesne.

Mr. Jang says he’s disappointed, and thinks a more aggressive examination is still required. Prof. Duchesne, meanwhile, wishes that UNB had offered him a heartier endorsement. He says that while he’s received some expressions of support from certain campus colleagues, he would likely have been sanctioned by the administration, were he not a tenured professor.

“The administration doesn’t want bad publicity, that’s all it’s thinking about,” he says. “I’m sure they wish I would just stop this research” into aspects of immigration and multiculturalism, which he vehemently criticizes.

But he won’t stop. And he refuses to quit writing incendiary pieces–in his personal time, he says, not on the university’s dime–and posting them to a website that belongs to something called the Council of European Canadians, an immigration-obsessed outfit that Prof. Duchesne co-founded last year.

The Council seems preoccupied with keeping Canada as “White” as possible, by promoting what it refers to on its website as “European values,” and opposing “the massive immigration of non-European and non-Western peoples into Canada that threatens to transform our nation into a non-European majority within our lifetime.”

The Council “will arm people with the ideas and courage to speak and fight against those who seek to demonize us and in our efforts to recruit and persuade Canadians,” reads one of its online manifestos.

It’s not everybody’s cup of tea, of course, and Kerry Jang and other city councillors of Asian background were never considered prime recruitment targets. Prof. Duchesne admits he sent his email to the councillors last year in order to provoke them. “I emailed them to see if they would reply to me,” he says. “I wanted a debate.” He got one.

The group’s membership is small, Prof. Duchesne admits, and its numbers fluctuate. Open to anyone regardless of race and creed, it has no members of colour. But “there is a white guy who married a Muslim girl,” says Prof. Duchesne.

Prospective members must agree with the group’s stance on matters such as immigration, which Prof. Duchesne says should be sharply curtailed in Canada. A bit rich, perhaps, considering he’s an immigrant from Puerto Rico.

No matter. It’s the Chinese that he’s most alarmed about. It’s “time Whites show respect for themselves and stop kowtowing to the Chinese,” reads part of another essay that Prof. Duchesne wrote and posted to his council’s website.

As for Vancouver, Prof. Duchesne doesn’t have much hope for the place. It’s been transformed from a “serene, community-oriented, British city” into “a loud, congested Asian city (still attractive only because of the architectural and institutional legacy of past White generations),” he wrote in another essay last year.

Vancouver does have a beautiful natural landscape, he acknowledges. “But the local Anglo people seem afraid of their own ethnic shadows,” he says. He hasn’t any plans to visit soon. Some might argue that’s for the best.

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