University condemned for handling of residential-schools course controversy

A group of Canadian professors is speaking out against a Halifax university's handling of a residential-schools course imbroglio, saying the race or ethnicity of a professor should not be a consideration when assigning a course.

Mount Saint Vincent University found itself embroiled in controversy after assigning a course about Canada's residential schools to a non-Indigenous professor, something activists say undermines reconciliation efforts.

In response, the school called a meeting this week between Indigenous faculty and staff and the professor assigned to the course to determine a way forward.

But the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship says in a letter that the decision to call a meeting undercuts university collegiality and the integrity of the academic department overseeing the course and curriculum.

Mark Mercer, president of the society and a philosophy professor at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, says it's up to the school's history department to consider a professor's expertise and perspectives - matters that should be judged on academic grounds alone rather than race or ethnicity.

He says the university should stand by its decision to assign the course to a qualified scholar.