CBC Won’t Stop Quoting A Eugenicist
Why is Dominique Ritchot still being quoted?
Almost a year ago, I published a story saying “the genealogist Dominique Ritchot, who the CBC has presented as a ‘specialist’ or having ‘expertise’, has a 2010 blog post on identity that cites Nazi-era eugenics” and “a similar post on identity one year earlier to a genealogy forum.”
CBC News’ official response said my “concerns with [Ritchot’s] credentials that are not shared by CBC News.”
TRIGGER WARNING. Topics include: systemic racism, antisemitism and white supremacy.
CBC’s Misuse of Genealogy to Attack Indigenous Identity
Publicly broadcasting genealogical quackery
Since then, CBC has published two more stories, totaling a dozen stories, citing her work:
- Mme Poulet, M. Chaudron… Where do food-related surnames come from? [Translated] (Aug 26, 2017)
- 4 federal candidates accused of Indigenous identity appropriation by Halifax academic ( Barrera & Deer, Oct 1, 2019)
- Montreal city councilor steps down as reconciliation advisor after Indigenous identity questioned (Deer, Nov 5 2019)
- Montreal elected official accused of lying claiming to be Indigenous [Translated] (Niosi, Nov 5 2019)
- Questioning the origins of an indigenous activist; leaders denounce [Translated] (Niosi, Feb 7 2020)
- Award-winning filmmaker Michelle Latimer’s Indigenous identity under scrutiny (Deer & Barrera, Dec 17 2020)
- Trickster producers resign amid Michelle Latimer Indigenous identity questions (Deer & Barrera, Dec 18 2020)
- Trickster series director Michelle Latimer resigns from 2nd season (Monkman [re-reporting only], Dec 21, 2020)
- NFB pulls Michelle Latimer’s documentary Inconvenient Indian from Sundance festival (Monkman, Dec 22, 2020)
- City councilor Marie-Josée Parent maintains she is Indigenous [Translated] (Belzile, Jan 21 2021)
- Books destroyed: the “knowledge keeper” is not Indigenous [Translated] (Gerbert, Sep 8, 2021)
- Indigenous origins of Carleton University professor questioned [Translated] (Niosi, Jan 25 2022)
Dominique Ritchot’s Strange Internet History
Dominique is a prolific internet poster and, as it happens, I was not the first to dredge up her past. I somehow missed three CBC stories from 2006 about her running in municipal politics. In 2006, she received 8.4% of the vote in Pointe-aux-Trembles, a neighborhood in North-East Montreal.
The party she represented was Quebec Solidaire, a left-wing Quebec sovereigntist party. Even then, someone found a bizarre comment on a Quebec folk-rock forum flippantly endorsing eco-terrorism.
Dominique Ritchot, a candidate for the left-wing Québec solidaire, found herself at the center of a political storm recently when she was identified by a blogger as having made comments supporting the fire-bombing of an oil industry spokesperson’s car in Quebec last summer.
“The violence of certain direct action groups… is not as bad as the violence of the capitalist system against nature and humans … it exploits for profit,” Ritchot wrote.
She also said that industry spokesperson Carol Montreuil, who was not harmed in the blast, “was not an innocent victim.” (Montreal Gazette 2007)
The Quebec Solidaire party formed in 2005 along with the publication of a 12 page manifesto. The archived 2006 manifesto contains typical left-wing politics and the usual blind spot for Indigenous peoples. Later updates mentioned Indigenous peoples with grand platitudes like “We consider the Aboriginal peoples to be full-fledged peoples and we want their ancestral and territorial rights to be recognized”(translated) but specifics were limited to “free French learning and improvement courses to newcomers, Anglophones and Aboriginals, accompanied by financial incentives.”
The conflicts of interest of a French supremacist providing commentary on Indigenous people and their genealogy should be glaringly obvious. Her opinions should be radioactive but they are presented as neutral expertise.
Dominique Ritchot Quoting Nazi-Era Science
Ritchot has used the ancestral breeding logics found in Nazi-era science to convince herself she is pure French. “I think we are the sum of the ancestors who came before us,” and “we can say that we inherit in fact only 5 or six generations that precede us.” (My translation) The concept of “Pur-laine” is something she has celebrated in the genealogy of a hockey player she blogged about in 2011.
Ritchot is politically aligned with the fight for Quebec sovereignty. These two factors make her dangerously unequipped to understand Indigenous identity. There is reason to believe she might be politically antagonistic to Indigenous people. Indigenous people have historically voted against Quebec separation / sovereignty.
Dominique’s 2010 blog on Identity claims to quote from the 1945 book L’HÉRÉDITÉ ET L’HOMME [EN: HEREDITY AND MAN]. I have written extensively about white supremacists and this book is one of the worst things I’ve ever read. Still, things are even more bizarre than a mere quotation from a apocryphal source.
First, the quote isn’t actually a quote. Either Dominique cited the wrong book or it was pulled from memory. I lean on the latter interpretation. She probably never thought someone would fact-check a blog.
Second, the 1945 book (and pseudo-quote) has no scientific value.
“Biological parentage comes first from the hereditary stock transmitted at birth through the chromosomes. The man has 48 [in fact, it’s more like 46 chromosomes] and each of his parents contributed half of them. However, at the level of the seventh generation, each person has 64 ancestors. It is therefore that 18 of them have transmitted, to a given descendant, no chromosome, and therefore no hereditary baggage.” […] “only 48 from the 128 ancestors of the eighth generation, only 48 from the 256 of the ninth, and it goes back like that.” (My translation. Bolded fragments found in the book)
The only factual part of the statement is Ritchot’s correction in square brackets. Yes, humans have 46 chromosomes. Everything else was based on science prior to the discovery of DNA. All the language around chromosomes is entirely wrong.
Chromosomes are rarely transmitted in whole generation after generation. “Genetic recombination means that your chromosomes aren’t purely from one grandparent or the other one. Chromosomes get mixed and matched before they are passed on.” (TheTech.org)
Yes, parents on average contribute 50% of genetic material but recombination rates vary substantially. Grandparent relations will be anywhere from 18–32% DNA related. Great grandparent 8–18% related. Of course these percentages are all perceptual overstatements because all humans are 99.8% related regardless of parentage. Unique characteristics in DNA are of little consequence and more to do with the nurture part of the nature vs. nurture debate.
There is no recombination during transmission of Y chromosome. It remains intact from the biological father to son. Similarly, both sons and daughters get mitochondrial DNA from the mother.
We are not simply the sum of “only 5 or 6 generations”. In fact, there is zero chance you inherit no large blocks of DNA from a biological ancestor 5 generations back. At six generations, there is a small ~1% chance you might not. At 10 generations, you have 50% chance to still have large blocks of DNA from that ancestry. Even at 15 generations, there is still a small chance to inherit large blocks of DNA.
When it comes to smaller segments or “sticky DNA” these transmissions can go back a thousand years.
In historical context, this pseudoscientific interpretation might have been for the author’s own self-preservation. The eugenics movement was targeting people who weren’t “pure” white. Therefore, to use “science” to erase ancestry beyond 5 generations would insulate oneself and others from draconian race laws that were on the rise in the USA and Canada.
But this is all a stretch. A distraction from how real identities are built. Identities are built on the stories we tell and the ones we believe. They are based on living relations.
Third, even the non-scientific parts of the book are marred by racist thinking. In one chapter, the author Jacques Rousseau describes his French ancestors as “all the pioneers, the heroes, the scalped” while diminishing the lives of the Indigenous woman.
“Marguerite Pigarouich, Algonquin Indian baptized in 1647, probably the daughter of Etienne Pigarouich, famous sorcerer [medicine man] of Trois-Rivières. I place a lot of hope on them. Who knows they don’t make me a cousin of Genghys Khan, Confucius and the Mikado [Emperor of Japan].” Later describing her as the one “who gesticulated while waving a rattle around the fire” (my translation p74 & 77)
Systemic Racism Exists at CBC
CBC President Catherine Tait’s statement on anti-racism in the wake of George Floyd’s murder states that it “recognize that systemic racism exists” at the CBC and but “are committed to combating racism in all its forms”.
Combating racism in all forms? Evidently not.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Voshart is Métis/Dutch designer living in Toronto, Canada (aka: Tkaronto, Turtle Island).