Walrus editor steps down days after cultural appropriation uproar

Jonathan Kay is resigning as editor-in-chief of the Canadian magazine The Walrus, a decision that followed a contentious debate around cultural appropriation.

Jonathan Kay to resign in 'coming days', says he had 'long-running difference of opinion' with magazine

Jonathan Kay is stepping down as editor-in-chief of The Walrus. He's seen here expressing his views on the need for debate around cultural appropriation during a panel discussion on CBC News Network on Saturday. (CBC)

Jonathan Kay is resigning as editor-in-chief of the Canadian magazine The Walrus.

"I've done something that's going to make the twitterverse *very* pleased...." Kay posted on his Twitter page Sunday.

The announcement comes days after Kay wrote an opinion piece published in the National Post about the need for debate around the issue of cultural appropriation. However, he says his decision to leave didn't have much to do with the recent controversy.

The article was sparked by the resignation of Hal Niedzviecki, who published an editorial last week saying he didn't believe in cultural appropriation and that when it comes to literature, "anyone, anywhere, should be encouraged to imagine other peoples, other cultures, other identities." It appeared in an issue of Write magazine dedicated to Indigenous writing.

Niedzviecki also called for the creation of an "Appropriation Prize," arguing, "there's nothing preventing us from writing about characters whose lives and cultures are very different from our own."

Hal Niedzviecki, former editor of Writers Magazine, wrote an opinion article in the latest issue of its quarterly magazine advocating for more cultural appropriation in Canadian literature. (www.alongcametomorrow.com)

Several prominent media leaders took this a step further on Twitter, saying they'd contribute money to the prize's establishment. Kay did not participate, but did retweet the post. He later called the idea "silly and insulting."

Kay appeared on CBC News Network Saturday to discuss his views on the contentious subject and condemned the Writers' Union of Canada for "shaming the outgoing editor" because of his views and treating Niedzviecki "as a sort of hate criminal."

"I found it was excessively strident and they were trying to distance themselves," Kay told CBC host Carole MacNeil.

​Kay told CBC News by email Sunday he informed The Walrus on Saturday night that he would be "stepping down" from his role "in coming days."

He also said the move isn't the result of one issue alone: "This came out of a long-running difference of opinion about the direction of The Walrus we've been having for months."

The Walrus publishes in-depth journalism covering national and international news, as well as Canadian fiction and poetry.