The Writers’ Union of Canada was forced to apologize after it published an article in its magazine encouraging cultural appropriation in Canadian literature. The article prompted the editor who wrote the article to resign.
Hal Niedzviecki, novelist and editor of the quarterly Write magazine, wrote an opinion piece claiming he doesn’t “believe in cultural appropriation.”
“Anyone, anywhere, should be encouraged to imagine other peoples, other cultures, other identities,” he said, suggesting that an “Appropriation Prize” in literature be created.
Several contributors to the magazine went to social media to criticize the article, claiming cultural appropriation is real and stressing that it’s important to refrain from committing that sin when writing literature. The critics also pointed out that some indigenous writers had contributed to that particular issue, CBC reported.
Helen Knott, a contributor to the magazine, wrote on Facebook: “I am seriously disgusted that someone would use the Indigenous issue of Write as a jump point for a case for cultural appropriation on the backs, words, and reputations of the Indigenous writers featured in it. It’s not enough that we are finding our voices, reclaiming our ability to tell stories, and having to heal to tell these stories. But people want to tell them for us.”
Another writer, Alicia Elliott, who has since made her Twitter account private, tweeted: “I can’t even begin to describe the anger I’m feeling right now. I’m literally shaking. My essay is about cultural appropriation.”
A fellow contributor, Joshua Whitehead, added: “I can’t get over how in my piece I called out appropriation and settler expectations in CanLit publications and performances (including TWUC calling their community a ‘tribe’ on their website) and yet they still published this.”
Write magazine editorial board member Nikki Reimer, meanwhile, resigned from her position in protest, saying the article was “clueless and thoughtless” and showed how the magazine “is not safe for indigenous and racialized writers.”
Again, so it's in my timeline: I have resigned from the Write board & I wish to offer my apologies. https://t.co/vAptdYYCj8
— Nikki Reimer (@NikkiReimer) May 10, 2017
Following the outcry, the Writers’ Union of Canada released a statement, saying it “deeply regrets the pain and offence caused by” the article and announced the resignation of Niedzviecki, who wrote the article.
“The [article] offended and hurt readers, contributors to the magazine and members of the editorial board,” said the organization, claiming the magazine is intended “to offer space for honest and challenging discussion and to be sincerely encouraging to all voices.”
“The union recognizes that intention is not enough, and that we failed in execution in this instance. We remain dedicated to honouring the very hard work we have set ourselves, and to taking responsibility for systemic wrongs in which we as an institution with a place in helping to define Canadian culture have participated.”