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(Norman Wong)
(Norman Wong)

Joseph Boyden tackles native torture, colonial amnesia and ongoing racism Add to ...

Well, maybe not share it, but understand it a little bit better. How do you go on when you’ve lost everything? If we as contemporary readers look back and say, “We really screwed some of these people, didn’t we, when we first arrived?” That’s a lesson I didn’t want to bang people over the head with, but I want the reader to be able to empathize with the characters.

Can that also become a moment of optimism for us as a broader society now? If we look at what we’ve lost, through our own fault, can we find a way to move on from that?

That would be amazing. But when I read the newspaper comments sections online, I realize that the racism is far heavier in Canada than I ever wanted to imagine. I think the average thinking, caring, emotive person can learn a bit of a lesson from reliving our history even if it is in fiction, which can sometimes have a greater truth. Maybe somebody will read this and say, “Wow, maybe this kind of trauma doesn’t really go away. Maybe this trauma on such a mass scale does resonate through generations.”

Do you think that a movement like Idle No More, despite all its successes, can actually propagate more racism?

I don’t think people are made racist because of a political movement. I think people are forced to examine their beliefs and their motivations. Like my friend DJ NDN from A Tribe Called Red, he is fighting a good fight in Ottawa to get a football team called the Nepean Redskins to change their name because he is an Anishinabe man and he finds it horribly racist. You should see the racists that crawl out of the woodwork. These people are coming out just to scream at him. I think Idle No More forces us to examine our motivations, our belief systems, our systems of commentary. I don’t think it’s going to make racists – but it will draw them out. And maybe it’s time to draw out that kind of poison, so we can excise it.

You’ve talked much about how your First Nations heritage is but one part of who you are.

I’m a mutt and very proud of it. I’m proud to have Irish blood and Ojibwa blood and Scottish blood.

Christophe is the first Western character in a novel of mine who’s been a protagonist. I think that they’re coming. I think there will be some really good mutt characters in the next novel. I hope and think I’m continuing to grow as a writer. I’ve got room to grow still, and lots of stories.

 

 

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