Taylor Chalker
Taylor Chalker
Entertainment Marketing graduate from the Toronto Film School, and first-year Arts student at UNB.
February 26, 2021

‘Indigenize This’: Response to Controversial Article From Saint Mary’s Professor

Mi'kmaq flag | Illustration by Jules Keenan

In January 2019 John MacKinnon, professor of Philosophy at Saint Mary’s University, wrote an article criticizing the university for providing accommodations for Indigenous students, raising the Mi’kmaq flag, and reading a territorial acknowledgement. 

The article, titled “Indigenize this’, was published by the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship, and discusses an interaction that MacKinnon had with an indigenous student, ‘Q’, in which he feels that Q was given special treatment by the university due to their heritage. 

“[The Mi’kmaq Grand Council flag] continues to waft alongside the provincial and national flag, making us, apparently, not just a Nova Scotian and Canadian, but also a Mi’kmaq institution,” MacKinnon wrote in his article, criticizing Saint Mary’s for their use of a territorial acknowledgement, a “ritual benediction” as he called it.

UNB Instructor of Philosophy Ahmad Rahmanian views the article as exclusionary and questions why Saint Mary’s did not take action against this professor or put out any statement regarding this issue. 

“This is a perfect manifestation of either ignoring history or being simply ignorant of it,” Rahmanian said. “What bothers me, partly, is the fact that Saint Mary’s University has not taken up this issue seriously, and not following it up has a meaning. The meaning is that they don’t have major differences with the author of the article.”

MacKinnon described his experience with Q, whose first language was not English, in which she requested a note-taker, did poorly on evaluations, and was eventually allowed to drop the course without penalty past the university’s deadline. 

“How many academic regulations have been relaxed or ignored, how many transcripts tampered with, how many grades inflated…?” MacKinnon asks in his article. 

As Rahmanian views it, this is an incredibly insensitive question to pose, as Mackinnon has no way of knowing the conversations that occur behind closed doors. Even if the university was making a special accommodation for Q, they should not be required to publicly disclose that.  

“Things happened behind closed doors that an instructor doesn’t necessarily have to know,” said Rahmanian, believing that there is much more to consider than what MacKinnon is saying. “Even if a student has been given preferential treatment, whether at Saint Mary’s or at UNB, it really makes no difference.”


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