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History General

Royally Wronged

The Royal Society of Canada and Indigenous Peoples

edited by Constance Backhouse, Cynthia E. Milton, Margaret Kovach & Adele Perry

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2021
General, Indigenous Studies
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The Royal Society of Canada’s mandate is to elect to its membership leading scholars in the arts, humanities, social sciences, and sciences, lending its seal of excellence to those who advance artistic and intellectual knowledge in Canada. Duncan Campbell Scott, one of the architects of the Indian residential school system in Canada, served as the society’s president and dominated its activities; many other members – historically overwhelmingly white men – helped shape knowledge systems rooted in colonialism that have proven catastrophic for Indigenous communities.

Written primarily by current Royal Society of Canada members, these essays explore the historical contribution of the RSC and of Canadian scholars to the production of ideas and policies that shored up white settler privilege, underpinning the disastrous interaction between Indigenous peoples and white settlers. Historical essays focus on the period from the RSC’s founding in 1882 to the mid-twentieth century; later chapters bring the discussion to the present, documenting the first steps taken to change damaging patterns and challenging the society and Canadian scholars to make substantial strides toward a better future.

The highly educated in Canadian society were not just bystanders: they deployed their knowledge and skills to abet colonialism. This volume dives deep into the RSC’s history to learn why academia has more often been an aid to colonialism than a force against it. Royally Wronged poses difficult questions about what is required – for individual academics, fields of study, and the RSC – to move meaningfully toward reconciliation.

About the authors

Constance Backhouse is a professor of law, distinguished university professor, and university research chair at the University of Ottawa. She obtained her B.A. from the University of Manitoba (1972), her LL.B. from Osgoode Hall (1975), and her LL.M. from Harvard Law School (1979). She was called to the Ontario Bar in 1978. She teaches feminist law, criminal law, human rights, and labour law. She is the author of many award-winning legal history books, including Petticoats & Prejudice: Women and Law in Nineteenth-Century Canada (1991), Colour-Coded: A Legal History of Racism in Canadian Law, 1900–1950 (1999) and The Heiress vs. the Establishment: Mrs. Campbell's Campaign for Legal Justice (2004). She received the Law Society Medal in 1998 and an Honorary Doctorate from the Law Society of Upper Canada in 2002. She has served as an elected bencher of the Law Society from 2002. She became a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2004.

Constance Backhouse's profile page

Cynthia E. Milton is professor of history at the University of Victoria.

Cynthia E. Milton's profile page

Margaret Kovach is a professor in the Department of Educational Studies at the University of British Columbia.

Margaret Kovach's profile page

Adele Perry is Professor of History at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. She was born and raised in a non-Indigenous family in British Columbia, did hard time in Toronto, and has lived in Winnipeg since 2000. She writes about the nineteenth century, gender, Canada, and colonialism, and is the author of On the Edge of Empire: Gender, Race, and the Making of British Columbia, 1849-1871 (University of Toronto Press, 2001), Colonial Relations: The Douglas-Connolly Family and the Nineteenth-Century Imperial World (Cambridge, 2015), and the co-editor of four editions of Rethinking Canada: The Promise of Women's History. With Esyllt Jones, she coordinated 2011's People's Citizenship Guide to Canada, published by ARP Books. You can find her on twitter at @AdelePerry.

Adele Perry's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"This valuable and timely collection should spark reflection and conversation both within and beyond the Royal Society of Canada. Royally Wronged helps unravel the lingering legacies of colonialism in the ‘knowledge' we have produced." Sarah Carter, University of Alberta and author of Lost Harvests: Prairie Indian Reserve Farmers and Government Policy

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