Two poems by a Canadian poet convicted for killing an Indigenous woman in 1995 have been removed from the parliamentary poet laureate website.
The poems were posted to the Library of Parliament website in 2017 when George Elliott Clarke was the parliamentary poet laureate.
They were removed Monday by parliamentary librarian Heather Lank, with agreement from the speakers of the Senate and the House of Commons.
The poems, Plaza Domingo and Alejandra, were written by Stephen Brown, the name assumed by Stephen Kummerfield, who–along with a friend, Alex Ternowetsky–was found guilty of manslaughter in the beating death of Pamela George near the Regina airport.
Both Clarke and Kummerfield/Brown were central figures in a contentious debate that has played out in Regina over the past several weeks after the University of Regina invited Clarke to deliver a lecture and reading scheduled for Jan. 23.
The debate appeared to end on Friday when Clarke cancelled his appearance.
Clarke and the University of Regina had been under pressure from members Canada’s Indigenous community, as well as others, to cancel the event because of Clarke’s professional relationship with Kummerfield/Brown.
Since 2005, Clarke has edited poems and books published under both of Kummerfield’s names, and, Clarke says, he only found out about Kummerfield’s violent past four months ago.
During his 2016-2017 tenure as parliamentary poet laureate, Clarke highlighted two of Kummerfield/Brown’s works as “poems of the month” and likened him to Beat poets Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.
The poems in question, including one about a sex worker, drew public concern from many, including Manitoba MLA Nahanni Fontaine, who said they showed disrespect toward the murdered Pamela George and other missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
“You cannot actively participate in celebrating an individual who has taken the life of an Indigenous woman. That is the crux of the issue here,” Fontaine said Monday.
Later in the day, parliamentary officials acted, removing the poems.
“The Library of Parliament has received numerous complaints regarding the presence of work by Stephen Brown on the parliamentary website,” said Tanya Sirois, a communications advisor for the Library of Parliament.
Sirois later said Clarke also supported the removal of the poems.
With files from CP (Teresa Wright, Rob Drinkwater, Lauren Krugel), CBC (Alex Soloducha, Bonnie Allen), RCI