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pre-conference workshop

 Ally-ship in Libraries in an Era of Reconciliation

Federation of the Humanities and Social Sciences
Congress 2018
University of Regina
Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

Facilitators: Dr. Verna St. Denis and Dr. Sheelah McLean

Convenor:  Deborah Lee

May 28, 1:30 - 4:30 pm
Location: First Nations Room FN2002
For registration, see below.

This interactive session will draw upon anti-racist theory to explore the history of racialized inequality between Indigenous peoples and white settler society in Canada. The official policy of multiculturalism has been an effective practice for minimizing the need for analyzing racism in Canada. More recently the national apology for residential schools and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission have also worked to perpetuate an assumption that Canada has made retribution. Anti-racist education seeks to challenge these national discourses of benevolence. Racialized discourses were integral to colonization and imperialism and continue to provide a foundation for understanding current socio-political and educational conditions. Racism is effective in normalizing and naturalizing a system of inequality and injustice. For centuries, Indigenous people have asserted their right and fought for justice and restitution, despite colonial policies and practices that have been imposed on them by Canadians and which continue rampantly to this day. In this current state of racial and colonial inequality, developing an historical understanding of the race concept and its utility in enforcing a social hierarchy of human worth remains necessary.

This workshop will assist in building anti-racist knowledge and literacy. We will provide both historical and current examples of how similar processes of racialization continue in the everyday discourse and practices of Canadians in institutions such as health care, universities and libraries. Racialization plays out in hiring practices, committee work, teaching and learning situations, and more. What can and should reconciliation mean in this context? We will examine the possibilities for solidarity work across racial differences, and discuss how the professional development and ethical practices of library staff can lead to examples of ally-ship.  Central to anti-racist and justice work is the need for on-going self-reflection, which this workshop seeks to both start and support for your own journey.


Dr. Verna St. Denis is a Professor of Education at the University of Saskatchewan where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in integrated anti-racist education in the Department of Educational Foundations. She identifies as both Cree and Metis and is a member of the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation. Her doctoral research explored the impact of functional anthropology and cultural theory on problematizing the education policy and practice in educating Indigenous students. So basically, exploring how colonialism used cultural theory to depoliticize the education of Indigenous students, and to further pathologize Indigenous people. Her research has also involved exploring the knowledge and experience of Indigenous teachers, particularly in public schools. And a third area of scholarship and teaching is in promoting the necessity of anti-racist education and how we offer this education to white identified teacher education students and in-service teachers and administrators. So basically seeking to understand the emotional and political investments white settlers subjects have in rejecting an anti-colonial and anti-racist analysis.

Sheelah McLean has a PhD in Anti-Racist education from the University of Saskatchewan. Sheelah has been a high school teacher for 25 years in the Saskatoon Public School Division, and currently teaches in adult education. As an educator, scholar and organizer in the Idle No More movement, Sheelah's work has focused on research projects and actions that address inequality, particularly focusing on the legacy of oppression experienced by Indigenous Peoples within a white settler society. Sheelah has received many honors for her work in social justice including the University of Saskatchewan's Alumni of Influence Award (2013), the Council of Canadians Activist of the Year Award (2014) and the Carol Gellar Human Rights Award (2015).


Deborah Lee is Indigenous Studies & Community Initiatives Librarian at the University of Saskatchewan.

Registration is available only through the Congress registration portal (  Register there for the CAPAL conference and find the workshop under "Banquet/Other Fees". The cost of the workshop is $55.