Tamara Starblanket's 2018 book generated a great deal of buzz for advancing understanding about Canada's horrific treatment of Indigenous people.
In Suffer the Little Children: Genocide, Indigenous Nations, and the Canadian State (Clarity Press), the Indigenous legal scholar documented the Canadian government's role in limiting the definition of genocide in the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Back in 1948 in the wake of the Holocaust, Canada was prepared to vote against the treaty unless a reference to "cultural genocide" was deleted from the final draft.
This lobbying effort succeeded.
And it wasn't until the release of Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's report in 2015 that the term "cultural genocide" truly entered mainstream Canadian discourse.
This week, Starblanket, dean of academics at Native Education College, was named winner of the 2020 Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy because of her book.
“That Canada could be viewed as having knowingly instituted policies and laws in relation to Indigenous Nations which can be termed genocidal and which have led to much irrecoverable destruction and loss is a hard reality for Canadians to stomach,” says Starblanket. “It is fitting that a fully comprehensive dialogue on that history and present be opened with due recognition of its controversiality."
Starblanket, a Cree woman from Ahtahkakoop First Nation in Treaty Six, will receive her prize at Native Education College on October 29. On that day, she will deliver a free lecture at an online event.
One of the prize founders, Nora Sterling, developed a glass-blowing business on Granville Island. This came after an early career in community-based mental-health care in the United States. She died in 2013.
Her husband, Ted Sterling, fled Vienna with his family at the age of 17 to escape the Nazis.
He joined SFU in 1972 and established its computer science department. A bio on the SFU website states that he was "no stranger to controversy", warning about how computers could threaten people's privacy.
According to Sourcewatch, Sterling was also a tobacco industry consultant for decades. This goes unmentioned on the SFU website. He died of pneumonia in 2005 after battling Parkinson's disease for a decade.