A First Nations educator asked a Winnipeg Chapters to pull the comic Tintin in America from its shelves on Saturday, citing "the impact of racist images and perpetuating harmful narratives." At first, Chapters pulled the book, but it is now back on the shelves after the chain determined it does not violate its policy.
The cover image depicts stereotypical images of indigenous people in buckskin, and a chief brandishing an axe over his head while Tintin is tied to a post in the background.
Tintin comics have sold hundreds of millions of copies since they were first serialized in 1929 by their Belgian creator, Hergé, and many of them contain cultural stereotypes of the past.
"The manager told us that the company doesn't feel like there is anything wrong with the imagery or the content of the book," Tasha Spillett posted Sunday morning on her Facebook page after attempting to have the book removed from the Winnipeg store.
This prompted some complaints to Chapters through its 1-800 number, Facebook page and "service" email on Sunday. The Chapters Polo Festival store pulled the book and told one complainant, Renée McGurry, in a Facebook message Sunday afternoon that "the title is no longer on our floor pending further investigation."
In an email received by the CBC on Monday, Chapters vice-president of public affairs Janet Eger said the chain has a clear policy regarding which books it will or won't carry.
In order for Chapters to not carry a book, it must meet one of three criteria: child pornography; material with instructions on how to build weapons of mass destruction; and "anything written with the sole intent of inciting society toward the annihilation of one group."
Eger confirmed the Tintin book had been removed "pending the investigation of a customer complaint at our Winnipeg location, yesterday — a decision taken in isolation by that store." She said it was later reinstated because it did not meet any of the three criteria.
"It is now back on the shelves," she said.
Spillett said the decision to continue selling the book is disappointing.
"They can’t see the connection between the images and further entrenching racism," she said.
"We have a responsibility to our children not to pass on the narratives that have created realities that are harmful to our communities.
"Chapters has to be responsible for the images and content it sells. As an educator, the only use for those types of texts are to create critical analysis of what racism looks like and how it impacts us."
Eger said that the Tintin series reflects an attitude from the past, but it does not meet the criteria for removal.
The Tintin series of books has been accused of racist attitudes toward several cultural groups, most notably black Africans, who featured in Tintin in the Congo.
In 2012, a Brussels court ruled that the book was written during the colonial era and that there was no evidence that Belgian cartoonist Hergé wilfully intended to incite racial hatred with the tale.