Widdowson Writes

Frances Widdowson and Albert Howard read a paper at the recent Canadian Political Science Association Meetings. You’ll remember that last year Widdowson’s paper on Canadian Aboriginal policy started a first-class academic ruckus. The session threatened to end in blows. (Widdowson and Howard are the authors of Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry, the Deception Behind Indigenous Cultural Preservation MQUP, 2008.)

So, we’ve been wondering. How did things go this time around?

“Very well,” according to Widdowson. “Tremendous progress was made concerning the idea of academic freedom and the need to discuss these issues publicly.”

There was a little flurry when commentator Daniel Salée arrived with students in tow. Rita Dhamoon (the University of the Fraser Valley) complained that the Widdowson-Howard contention is not suitable for young ears. But Salée was adamant and the students stayed.

Widdowson and Howard  fleshed out their now-familiar position with new arguments and data. Here’s a one-sentence summary (by Howard): “In the development of Canadian aboriginal policy, a parasitical group of non-aboriginal lawyers and consultants thrives by proposing various programs that maintain aboriginal dependency and social dysfunction.”

Contentious, huh? Racist! A supposition not to be entertained in Canadian public discourse. That’s the opinion of many. Sandra Tomsons (University of Winnipeg) read the second paper, “The European Epistemic Hierarchy and Aboriginal Rights.” It’s a heavy-handed attack on Widdowson and Howard.

I’d  say the word “vituperative” fits. “Nasty.”

Tomsons is another who maintains that Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry should not be discussed in classrooms, or listed on course outlines. Pas devant les enfants!

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9 Responses to “Widdowson Writes”


  1. 1 Frances Widdowson June 29, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Although most of this posting is accurate, it is a little hard on Dr. Tomsons, whose attack on Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry was due largely to a misguided belief, common amongst postmodern relativists, that striving for social justice requires one to condescendingly agree with everything that the indigenous intelligentsia says. Dr. Tomsons should also be commended for actually expressing her opinions publicly; some social scientists prefer to hide anonymously behind amorphous bodies like the Women’s Caucus so that they will not have to be held accountable for their unscholarly attitudes and behaviour.

    It is very disturbing that academics today think that they should act as censors for what students are exposed to. This reflects, in my view, extreme professional misconduct. How will critical thought be encouraged and ideas challenged and improved if opposing viewpoints are not analyzed?

  2. 2 janetajzenstat June 29, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    Thank you Frances. Your correction is welcome.

  3. 3 link to Tomsons August 12, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Tomsons paper can be read here:

    http://www.cpsa-acsp.ca/papers-2009/Tomsons.pdf

    Another well-crafted refutation of a book that hardly deserves the effort. I suggest Widdowson read the full version of the paper.

    • 4 Frances Widdowson August 17, 2009 at 11:55 am

      What unbelievable presumptious windbaggery! I have read this paper – three times, in fact. It is incomprehensible pomobabble. Perhaps you can explain how this “refutation” is so “well-crafted”!

      • 5 B. Onishenko March 1, 2010 at 8:38 pm

        Three readings and still no understanding? That’s a pity. I have read it and, although there is some room for another proof-reading/editing, the message is clear; your methodolgy is unsound, your assumptions are many, your product is not scientific in nature. And yet you denigrate aboriginal ways as being subjective and therefore unworthy. Time to clean up your own messy backyard.

  4. 6 G.W.B. Robinson August 25, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Thank you, Francis, for your informative book. Having patrolled several reservations as an RCMP officer in the Rocky Mountain House area,and having lived next to reservations in North Vancouver, I have always wondered what happened to the money.
    It amazes me that books, papers, correspondence from 50 years ago addressed issues discussed in your book and in my opinion very little has changed except that there is more money and more parasitic activity. I have travelled considerably through out southern BC and southern Alberta over the past 40 years and conditions that I have witnessed on dozens of reservations have not improved. Of course there are exceptions and these exceptions seem to have developed going concerns i.e casinos, golf courses, shopping centres, marinas, fish farms, wineries,hunting and guiding outfits, ranching and cattle operations, so it can be done. I respect the words( paraphrased) of Chief Louie from Osoyoos Indian band to an aboriginal conference in Fort MacMurray a few years ago-” get off your asses and forget the government handouts ” Thanks again.

  5. 7 Frances Widdowson August 25, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    It is important to point out that Albert Howard and I are not against government intervention in aboriginal policy; in fact, it is likely that a comprehensive strategy to address aboriginal deprivation will require increased funding for aboriginal education, health care, and housing.

    Although I admire Chief Louie’s attempts to oppose some of the nonsense being perpetrated in current aboriginal policy discussions, it is important to recognize that the success of his band is due to the fact that it is a special case – an aboriginal group that is in a prime tourist location and agricultural area. Most aboriginal groups are not in this position; they are in remote locations that are completely isolated from any economic activity. In these cases, wishful thinking has been encouraged so that it is now believed that economic activity can be generated simply by infusing more and more government funds. No thought has been given to the market activity that will be generated by these subsidies (none is likely).

    If the goal is that aboriginal people should enjoy the standard of living and psychological well being experienced (on average) by other Canadians, then the educational levels and “emotional mobility” (as Peter Sutton puts it in the Australian case) of the marginalized members of aboriginal communities will have to be increased. The only way that this can be achieved is through a comprehensive government strategy that devotes both the financial and human resources required to make the transition from the stone age to the industrial age in a very short period of time possible. It cannot occur simply by encouraging uneducated, economically isolated and politically undeveloped people to “get off their asses”. This only justifies the withdrawal of funds for sorely needed high quality social services.

  6. 8 G.W.B. Robinson August 26, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Your points are well taken. However, there was a time not so long (15-20 years )ago that Chief Louis’s reservation was a dry arid desert albeit still in the heart of southern interior tourism and agriculture so his progress in my mind is astounding. Furthermore if my memory serves me correctly, the chiefs attending the Fort Mac conference were not all uneducated or all politically undeveloped but your point is still valid as they represent people you so aptly described. Once again thanks for the book and thanks for your reply.


  1. 1 A nice comment from Francis Widdowson … « Sleepy Old Bear Diaries Trackback on July 5, 2009 at 1:40 pm

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