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

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

Comments (20) Add New Comment
Joseph Goebbels once said; “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

The Nazi propaganda minister went on to say; “The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Your Harperland government issued muzzle is in the mail, or in the next omnibus legislation, or by a new ministerial dictate.
Rating: +82
Free Speech Anyone?
Has any of the above signatories signed a free speech wall at their university? No? I didn't think so.
Rating: -45
Sociologists! Interdisciplinary work with your Linguistics and Political Science colleagues is necessary. This message was not for your ears. It was directed at people who wouldn't know sociology from a Marxist with a stick of dynamite up his arse. It's called Propaganda chuffs.
Rating: -34
devils advocate
ooo, all the tenured profs getting their knickers in a knot because someone slagged sociology

time for some more cuts to super subsidized universities staff
Rating: -140
Thank you. Stay the course.
Rating: +48
anon 1962
I LOVED Stephen Harper's comments on "not committing sociology". Sociologists study the stupidest subjects and are "scholars" who can't do anything else. I met plenty of them doing my Masters degree in Sociology. If it wasn't for government funding, sociologists would be unemployed. So, please spare me your indignation.
Rating: -118
Anita Moorman
What a lot of useless rhetoric...I have seen Mr. Harper asking for accountability for the money that is being handed over in a lot of these cases...I for one applaud that since my hard earned taxes are part of the process....
Rating: -119
Daphne Sams
If this were a petition, I'd sign in a heartbeat.
Rating: +51
Alain Milette
I am with these people Mr.Harper (God)
Rating: -6
Bruce Ryan
It has been years since I had to look up a word found in a publication. Congratulations. Erudite conversation to enlighten the citizens is ALWAYS worthy. The concept of immiseration on a global level was disturbing. Viewing the right wing corporate plutocracy as a Marxist ideal shed new light on the current Conservative agenda.
The truth is indeed the enemy of the State. Using every means possible to conceal the truth and divert the attention of the People is a standard tactic. Any politicians, using our money, to assist with these tactics are violating the public trust. This is a failure of good governance. Secretive bills and legislation are a violation of our Charter and the Constitution. Free speech and dissent are required for informed decisions in a democratic nation.
All of the people involved with Idle No More, Occupy Wall Street, anonymous, Electoral Reform, Keystone, eco-warrior movements (and others) are ALL a response to governments simply not listening to the People. These are a response to knowing that the corporate global model is a disaster for humanity. The agenda to suppress the truth will never be successful ~ as every government has learned throughout history. Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it.
Rating: +35
"If it wasn't for government funding, sociologists would be unemployed."
Rating: -24
Barb Phillips
Okay so in Harper's Canada we are not to be doing sociology or any critical thinking. We are to keep on with the economic action plan which since 2008 has been our mantra. We need to focus on the economics and keep our hand on the tiller. Got it... Why then did Mr. Harper lose $3.1 Billion from the $13 B. anti-terrorism department. Somehow I think he let go of the tiller...Well you know what ...I do not like Mr. Harper's Canada. My Canada does not exploit TFWs. My Canada does not have Mr. Toews interfering with the RCMP. My Canada does not race to the bottom to satisfy the corporations. And my Canada will work to keep the environment somewhat safe for my grandchildren and future generations.
Rating: +46
Obviously Harper will go after the funding of anybody criticizing his regime. You will either find your scholarships and tenure yanked, or you will find your non profit being audited mercilessly by revenue canada.

I suggest these professors start recording and distributing their lectures and recitations for FREE like many universities now do to eliminate the financial blockade most of us have to post secondary education. Coursera, MIT, Stanford and numerous European and Indian universities are all giving away their lectures to anybody who wants them.

Princeton has started putting up all their Sociology courses online why aren't Canadian universities involved?
Rating: +4
lern to reed
"Princeton has started putting up all their Sociology courses online why aren't Canadian universities involved?"

By proportion, Canada has a high participation rate in coursera than the US. We have far, far fewer institutions, and two of our majors are listen among the participants. It should also be noted that Princeton is not putting 'all' of its sociology courses online, only one version. What you seem to be saying is that we should disband traditional universities in favor of self-represented credentials that can be 'obtained' (i.e., registered for) by anyone, anywhere.

Yup, when children of the future need rescuing or minorities of the future are debased, I want an unemployed, untrained 'sociologist' to come to the rescue. When you become a sociologist, you can tell me what one does and how much pay you think they and their research deserves. Until then, stfu.
Rating: -6
Kis Brink
You will see Harper ask for accountability but when an issue of accountability falls too close to it being his error someone gets shoved under the bus. If he was interested in accountability wouldn't Parliament actually sit more? He's mistaken a majority for a dictatorship and as a man with a lot to hide he's doing all he can to keep things behind closed doors. Harper's Canada is not recognizable as the Canada I know and love. Mr. Harper please instead of attacking any opposition leader out of your fear they might have a brain before they even get started try opening up a few books, come clean with some of your dark secrets and realize this is Canada not the US. Canada not Harper's Canada.
Rating: +23
Greg Robinson
Anti-intellectualism is often perpetrated by very highly educated academics (intellectuals) who, having studied sociology, psychology and so forth have learned certain formulae for whipping up the masses against intellectuals. The type of popular backlash that they engineer helps silence and discredit critics and consolidates and increases power. Most anti-intellectual statements, moves and manoeuvres that governments and parties like Harper, the Republicans etc. commit are sophisticated examples of how certain intellectuals can deliver the world to their powerful clients. Ironic isn't it?
Rating: +21
Harper's Canada was supposed to be no abortion, no gay marriage, no gun control and capital punishment. This is what Warren Kinsella warned.

Paul Martin shook his credit card in the air and warned us Harper was going to get rid of Universal Health Care. We were also going to have soldiers on our streets.

Where is this "Harper's Canada" we were warned about? Where is the hidden agenda? The "anti-democratic bully" is nothing more than the next branding campaign by the other political parties. Is Harper more of a bully or dictator than Jean Chretien? Not at all. Are we any less democratic?

One thing I know is that this government isn't passing money around in envelopes or giving themselves shipping contracts and avoiding paying tax in Canada. It also treat tax dollars with a heck of a lot more respect. Harper saved Canada $14 billion by standing up and pointing out that Kyoto was a useless exercise without the big three emitters. He got rid of the gun registry, gold-plated MP pensions and is now going to bring crown corporation employee compensation in line with the private sector. How terrible?

Rating: +461
Don Schwartz
Ignorance is one of the the principal methods by which totalitarian governments gain and maintain control over populations, second only to brute force. Any policy which degrades knowledge, debate, education, learning, or criticism is anti-democratic and worthy of our opposition. Intolerance of such policies is not only justified, it is essential if we wish to live in a free society. This Conservative government - the Harpoons - are a blight on our nation.
Rating: +4
Harper is not conservative he is Reform
Rating: +3
John David Bourgeois
Evangelical Christianity and Science are incompatible. Harper's Alliance Church teaches some pretty dangerous beliefs. Why is the public surprised that Harper is "anti-intellectualism"? It is a terrible example for children who now, more than ever, need to acquire critical thinking skills.
Rating: 0
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