A Call to Action to Help Update the Education and Tourism Systems in Tiotà:ke / Montreal!

This is a Call to Action to help update the Education and Tourism systems in Tiotà:ke / Montreal!

As a licensed tour guide and History teacher, I have recently been working on updating Montreal’s Tourism Industry and Education System because they are unbearably colonial, Euro-centric and mis-representative of First Nations, women and Other marginalized communities. This unfortunate situation is a direct result of the Quebec Department of Education’s ongoing insistence of mis-educating the general population, including with its recently debunked “History” curriculum.

Indeed, since the early 1600s, European colonial cultures have been revising historical facts to promote colonial projects on Turtle Island / North America, and this continues into the present. One needs only look at the 1606 Theatre of Neptune in New France and “The Society of Notre-Dame of Montreal for the Conversion of Savages of New France” (1639) as early pieces of Euro-centric “education” and revisionism.

More recently, the Residential School System has achieved the same effect of cultural genocide against Indigenous people for what is arguably the same Euro-centric colonial project.

It is time to stop this deceitful and colonial power imbalance dead in its tracks, if anything because the racist and sexist “History” curriculum renders everyone except white colonial males invisible, marginal or outright misrepresented.

Those excluded from the Quebec Education Department’s “History” curriculum include Women, First Nations, Black, Irish, Jewish, Muslim, LQBTQ, Disabled, Impoverished, Immigrant, Refugee and Other important communities.

The Quebec Education Department’s ongoing refusal to allow a real History program results in not only mis-education and generalized ignorance, but can lead to racism, sexism, homophobia, intolerance and hate against misrepresented and marginalized communities – and sometimes even more devastating consequences.

In the local Tourism Industry, things are just as outdated and Euro-centric. For example, Montreal by-law G-2 has created a monopoly/cartel of mostly white colonial-ancestry tour guides (A.P.G.T.) within the City’s boundaries. There is not even one First Nations guide operating legally on the un-ceded Indigenous territory of Tiotà:ke.

In the past, the A.P.G.T. has received complaints about racist language and discourse among its mostly white tour guides. For example, on May 18, 2017, a letter of complaint, from a conscientious local citizen, was sent via email to the A.P.G.T. and Tourisme Montréal.

Good afternoon,

I live in Montreal and work in Old Montreal.

Tuesday of this week, as I was walking by the statue of Maisonneuve in front of the church, I could hear an English speaking tour guide telling his group (of about 20 tourists) about the ‘savages’.

He kept on talking and repeating ‘savages’ (with emphasis) and then I realized he was referring to our First Nations people.

I was at first very ashamed that we (Montreal) are referring to our native people this way- and the impression it must leave with the tourists. After all, we invaded their land and they were just defending themselves.

I did not react at that time- so I did not see which/if any ‘badge’ the tour guide had, therefore I am unable to say for whom he worked.

But I feel it is your responsibility to make sure ALL tour guides do not continue to refer to our natives as ‘savages’.

I will return every day during my lunch hour to that square- with my camera so if I see/hear this sort of language again- I will be able to film it. (if I do film this, I will send you a copy).

I sure hope that you are able to remedy this situation asap. Because it is not kind nor fair and I am embarrassed to be associated this.

Please advise your employees not to refer to them as savages.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this.”

The racist guide was repeatedly pointing at the 1895 Maisonneuve Monument, which occupies the heart of Montreal’s tourist district in the center of the Place d’Armes. Surprisingly, this racist centerpiece of Montreal’s Tourism Industry was recently refurbished in 2009 instead of being removed from public sight and placed behind glass in a museum, where it belongs as a colonial relic of the past. 21st Century historiographical norms demand nothing less.

This tour guide’s performance is as disgusting as the racist statue that prompted it! I can only imagine him, frothing at the mouth like a rabid, savage animal that has yet to be captured by the S.P.C.A., as he delivers this outrageously racist monologue!

One of the problems is that Montreal bylaw G-2 has created a monopoly of mostly white tour guides. The bylaw states that it is illegal to be a tour guide unless “educated” at the ITHQ.

It is not easy trying to update outdated systems such as Education and Tourism, but it is a crucial first step towards decolonization. A good starting point is to see what the local First Nations themselves are doing in regards to Education and Tourism.

I recently visited  Kahnawà:ke and had an amazing experience with guide Dwayne Stacey of Kahnawà:ke Tourism, who is also a History and Archaeology teacher at the Kahnawà:ke Survival School. His tour was very authentic and Indigenous – the exact type of experience 2.0 (next generation) tourists are thirsting for!

As a professor of History and Archaeology at the at the Kahnawà:ke Survival School, Mr. Stacey enjoys the right to teach real, authentic history because Kahnawà:ke is an independent First Nation and creates its own curriculum, based on historical facts, unlike the Quebec Education Curriculum’s Euro-centric “History” course (which I must teach). Sadly, this distorted “History” course was first ordered by a minority-government Parti Québécois in 2013, which aimed to employ the course to promote Quebec’s struggle for nationhood. It has since been widely-exposed as a piece of political propaganda and not actually a real History course.

These issues in Tourism and Education require immediate attention.

How can you help?

1. Begin by (re)educating yourself. 

Due to ongoing mis-education by government “Education” systems, it can be very challenging to accept that we have not been taught properly and to try and seek out the Truth, as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. One good starting point is the Indigenous Ally Toolkit, which states that “Educating yourself is an ongoing process. Change will not be easy and you will never truly be an expert on Indigenous challenges and realities, but you can work in allyship.”

2. Please be aware of problems in Tourism and Education

Montreal’s Tourism Industry has been described as too Euro-centric, as evidenced by Tourisme Montreal refusing to engage with the 2019 UN Year of Indigenous Languages, a mostly white cartel of tour guides (A.P.G.T), a tourism school (I.T.H.Q.) that fails to teach guides Indigenous history, vocabulary or perspectives and a by-law (G-2) that excludes guides from marginalized communities from operating legally. In line with the Recommendations and Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the M.M.W.G.I Calls to Justice, the Tourism and Education systems need to be updated.

3. Please join 2.0.

Join us in these important updates by requesting to join the 2.0 (Montreal Tour Guides/Guides touristiques de montréal) Facebook Group where we are actively discussing these issues with the view of taking future action to ensure the updates are not snarled by colonial viruses and whatnot. Please email optatif@gmail to request to join the secret group of post-colonialists.

2.0 was created because the original Guides touristiques de montréal group (run by the A.P.G.T.) does not allow guides outside of their monopoly, does not allow political discussion about important activist issues, such as Truth and Reconciliation, censors political discourse and refuses to discipline its members who use racist language and create racist imagery against indigenous people, on whose territory we operate.

Montreal exists on the un-ceded Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) territory of Tio’tia:ke in northern Kanien’keh, also known as the Land of the Flint. The A.P.G.T. refuses to publicly acknowledge this fact on its website or do a territorial acknowledgement, in line with ancient Indigenous protocols.

The 2.0 page is a safe space to discuss all post-colonial matters relating to Montreal Tourism, Education, Journalism, Social Services and Arts & Culture. Any members who use racist language or deny that Montreal is on un-ceded indigenous territory will be immediately expelled.

2.0 is not only for tour guides and those wishing to guide, but also for post-colonial educators, activists, journalists, social workers, co-conspirators and supporters of Truth and Reconciliation initiatives and decolonization. If we build strong enough alliances and bonds, we can urgently update these broken systems sooner rather than later.

4. Prepare for action.

The first step is to challenge Montreal’s Euro-centric by-law G-2 so we will be launching a campaign in early 2019 to officially scrap it.

We will need activists to send emails, post messages, help raise awareness and potentially carry out direct actions to liberate guided walks in Montreal from the oppressive by-law G-2. Guided walks are an ancient form of street performance and they are likely legally protected under Freedom of Expression, which takes precedence over municipal by-laws.

We will also have to lobby the new CAQ Minister of Education to update the offensive and racist “History” course being taught throughout colonial Quebec.

I look forward to working and performing in activist campaigns with you!

In Solidarity,

Donovan King, MFA, BEd, BFA, ACS, DEC

Griffin Tours


Please have a look at recent media reports about 2.0 members working on these issues and share with anyone who you think might be interested in these updates:

Montreal Gazette. Our streets are haunted, especially in Old Montreal. Bill Brownstein. October 27, 2022.

Global News. Mohawk Mothers demand investigation into potential unmarked graves at McGill University. Olivia O’Malley. October 20, 2021.

The Eastern Door. Mohawk question ignored by city. Laurence Brisson Dubreuil. August 27, 2021.

APTN. “What to do with Canada’s colonial statues, street names?“. Lindsay Richardson. June 26, 2020.

The Eastern Door. Montreal Bylaw Hinders Indigenous Tour Guides. Sarah Cooke. May 15, 2020.

Montreal Gazette. Montreal mulls bylaw change to allow unlicensed Indigenous tour guides. T’Cha Dunlevy, May 15, 2020.

OCPM. Submission for Public Consultation regarding Systemic Racism and
Discrimination in Montreal
. Donovan King. October 30, 2019.

CKUT Radio with Sarah Deshaies. Interview with Donovan King about Griffin Tours and Problems in Montreal’s Tourism Industry. August 15, 2019

CJAD Radio 800 with Anne Lagacé Dowson. Interview with Donovan King about Haunted Montreal and Griffin Tours. July 9, 2019.

APTN National News. Local guide calls for revisions to Montreal’s colonialist monuments. Lindsay Richardson. July 3, 2019.

CBC Radio One – Daybreak with Ainslie MacLellan. Interview with Donovan King of Haunted Montreal. June 27, 2019.

CBC Montreal. On the 140th anniversary of Mary Gallagher’s murder, historian appeals to city to mark Griffintown sites.  Elysha Enos. June 27, 2019.

Montreal Gazette. Will Montreal’s most infamous ghost appear Thursday night? Bill Brownstein. June 26, 2019.

CBC Radio One. All in a Weekend with Ainslie MacLellan. Interview with Donovan King. June 13, 2019.

CBC Montreal. Dream of memorial park in Montreal to honour Irish famine victims inches closer. March 17, 2019.

Radio-Canada. Bientôt un parc commémoratif à Montréal pour les victimes de la famine d’Irlande. 17 mars, 2019.

CBC News TV – Montreal. Great Famine Walking Tour. March 16, 2019. (clip runs 8:45 – 10:32)

The Eastern Door. Montreal Tourism To Better Reflect Native History.  Lindsay Richardson. March 16, 2019.

Irish Central. “Green Season” celebrates and commemorates Irish in Montreal. Miles Murphy. March 15, 2019.

CBC News. Controversy over Indigenous representation pursues Robert Lepage play as it opens in Paris: Abenaki filmmaker attends premiere, says play overlooks history of Indigenous activism. December 17, 2018.

CBC News. Inuit children in Quebec youth protection left in ‘no man’s land’. Ainslie MacLellan. December 13, 2018.

CBC News. Indigenous youth in Quebec child protection told not to speak their own languages, sources say: ‘How can we still be doing this?’ asks Nakuset, executive director of the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal. Ainslie MacLellan. December 12, 2018.

CBC News. Why losing her sister changed everything for Nakuset, and how she hopes to break the cycle. Nakuset. December 11, 2018.

University of Calgary Alumni Association. Careers in Motion: King of Montreal’s Hidden Histories Donovan King, MFA’04. Deb Cummins. December 11, 2018.

CBC News. Found and lost: Nakuset was separated from her sister Sonya during the Sixties Scoop, but reunited with her as an adult — only to lose her again to suicide. Ainslie MacLellan. December 11, 2018.

CBC Indigenous. Montreal tour guide wants more Indigenous history incorporated into industry training. Jessica Deer. November 8, 2018.

Montreal Times. Montreal Haunted Mountain Tour. Deborah Rankin. November 6, 2018.

McGill Tribune. Montreal tour guide highlights indigenous history. Leyla Moy. December 5, 2018.

The Eastern Door. Guide Wants Full History Of City During Tours. Lachlan Madill. November 2, 2018.

CityNews Montreal. TV interview with tour guide Donovan King, November 2, 2018.

CBC Radio One – Daybreak with Mike Finnerty. Interview with Donovan King of Haunted Montreal. November 2, 2018.


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