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Open letter: Thou shalt not commit sociology (or critical thinking of any kind)

The Georgia Straight by Veronica Strong-Boag & Gillian Creese 29 April 2013

The anti intellectualism of Stephen Harper demands a reply. In face of global capitalism’s mounting crisis, critical interrogation of social phenomena, causes and consequences is urgently needed. We invite Canadians to ‘commit sociology’ and indeed ‘history’, ‘literary criticism’, ‘philosophy’, ‘political science’, ‘anthropology’, ‘critical legal studies,’ ‘political economy’, and ‘feminist studies’.

The latest attack on independent research and scholarship is part of the current Conservative government’s attempt to keep Canadians in the dark. Since at least the 1960s and 1970s, evidence-based research in the humanities and social sciences has illuminated pervasive injustice and inequality. In Canada, long-standing colonialism in dealing with the First Nations, the ‘patriarchal dividend’ in employment, politics, education, and social security, the gulf between rich and poor, the scapegoating of racialized immigrants and foreign workers, the criminalization of the poor, and the hollowing out of the middle class have been confirmed. To a significant degree, anti-racist, feminist, and other critical scholars have shaped policy and improved outcomes for the less powerful. Their scholarship has also encouraged social movements such as Idle No More and Occupy, which reject the market capitalism embraced by the right as the solution to global immiseration.

Harper’s administration and its allies have mounted a general attack on critical research, be it in the humanities, the social sciences or the sciences. They want data-based interpretations of Canada that document elite, corporate, European, and male abuse to disappear. Their assault on the humanities and social sciences, like that on the sciences, began with censorship. Statistics Canada, archives, libraries, and parks and historic sites, not to mention programs of scientific research, have been hobbled.

National history is one special target of conservative efforts to cleanse Canada of proof of inequality and injustice. Ottawa’s 2011 “Discover Canada” guide to the citizenship test and 2012 immigrant guide, “Welcome to Canada,” foster a deliberately naïve patriotism. Political decisions to turn the Canadian Museum of Civilization into one of History, to embrace reactionary commemorative practices, to militarize patriotic mythology, and to attack Library and Archives Canada, the principal depository of our history, aim to dumb down the electorate.

The contest for hearts and minds goes far beyond anti-intellectualism. Current government practices form part of a broader process of public ‘de-gendering’ that aims at the systematic elimination of gender, racial, and class justice from public policy. That result threatens hard-fought struggles by Canadians of every description and scholarly investigation of every variety

In face of a world that is so self-evidently badly served by reactionary forces, we rededicate ourselves to committing critical scholarship. We also support scientists who document the precarious state of the environment. Like them we embrace the ‘sin’ of employing data in aid of a proactive public policy that fosters a sustainable and equitable planet. We urge all Canadians to do the same.


Veronica Strong-Boag (FRSC) & Gillian Creese, University of British Columbia
Leonora Angeles, University of British Columbia
Constance Backhouse, University of Ottawa
Denyse Baillargeon, Université de Montréal
Kaili Beck, Laurentian University
Frank Blye, University of British Columbia
Suzanne Bouclin, Université d’Ottawa
Susan Boyd, University of British Columbia
Bettina Bradbury, York University
Angela Cameron, University of Ottawa
Gail Campbell, University of New Brunswick
Wanda Cassidy, Simon Fraser University
Mary Chapman, University of British Columbia
Ann Chinnery, Simon Fraser University
Elizabeth Comack, University of Manitoba
Cynthia Comacchio, Wilfrid Laurier University
Margaret Conrad, University of New Brunswick
Sharon Cook, University of Ottawa
Emma Cunliffe, University of British Columbia
Megan Davies, York University
Karen Dubinsky, Queen’s University
Margaret Early, University of British Columbia
Sylvia Fuller, University of British Columbia
Shelley Gavigan, Osgoode Hall Law School
Carole Gerson, Simon Fraser University
Laauren Gillingham, University of Ottawa
Mona Gleason, University of British Columbia
Sneja Gunew, University of British Columbia
Huamei Han, Simon Fraser University
Katy Haralampides, University of New Brunswick
Jennifer Henderson, Carleton University
Susan Hoecker-Drysdale, Concordia University
Emery Hyslop-Margison, University of New Brunswick
Franca Iacovetta, University of Toronto
Rebecca Johnson, University of Victoria
Gregory Kealey, University of New Brunswick
Linda Kealey, University of New Brunswick
Gary Kinsman, Laurentian University
Kim Lenters, University of Calgary
Andrée Lévesque, McGill University
Kristina Llewellyn, University of Waterloo
Meg Luxton, York University
Susan McDaniel, University of Lethbridge
Gayle MacDonald, St. Thomas University
Ann McKinnon, Okanagan College
Arlene McLaren, Simon Fraser University
Lynn Marks, University of Victoria
Greg Marquis, University of New Brunswick
Isabelle Martin, Université de Montréal
Kathy Mezei, Simon Fraser University
Mary Jane Mossman, Osgoode Hall Law School
Suzanne Morton, McGill University
Catherine Murray, Simon Fraser University
Tamara Myers, University of British Columbia
Vrinda Narain, McGill University
Bonny Norton, University of British Columbia
Nicole O’Byrne, University of New Brunswick
Debra Parkes, University of Manitoba
Karen Pearlston, University of New Brunswick
Geraldine Pratt, University of British Columbia
John Price, University of Victoria
Jane Pulkingham, Simon Fraser University
Andrew Rippin, University of Victoria
Becki Ross, University of British Columbia
Claudia Ruitenberg, University of British Columbia
Eric Sager, University of Victoria
Joan Sangster, Trent University
Ozlem Sensoy, Simon Fraser University
Alexis Shotwell, Carleton  University
Mary Lynn Stewart, Simon Fraser University
Jordan Stanger-Ross, University of Victoria
D. Gillian Thompson, University of New Brunswick
David Tindall, University of British Columbia
Keelleen Toohey, Simon Fraser University
Lorna Turnbull, University of Manitoba
Lucinda Vandervort, University of Saskatchewan
Robert Whitney, University of New Brunswick
Wendy Wickwire, University of Victoria
Margot Young, University of British Columbia