Writer with violent past withdraws work from Indigenous anthology
Neal McLeod says he doesn't want his past domestic violence charge to jeopardize the book
A Cree writer has withdrawn his work from an upcoming anthology of work by Indigenous writers after other contributors objected to his inclusion due to his previous conviction for domestic assault.
Neal McLeod was slated to have his work included in kisiskâciwan: Indigenous Voices from Where the River Flows Swiftly, to be published by the University of Regina Press next year.
However, six female authors withdrew their works and penned an open letter to the publisher after discovering McLeod had pleaded guilty to domestic assault three years ago.
"I was charged with one incident of domestic violence in 2014. I have done several things to transform my life since then. I acknowledged my responsibility before the courts: not shying away from or minimizing, but rather fully and publicly admitting my wrongdoing," McLeod wrote in a public statement Tuesday.
"I am truly sorry that my presence in kisiskâciwan anthology has caused such divisions in both Indigenous and writing communities I hold dear.... I am also very grateful for the efforts U of R Press has offered to create spaces for violence to be discussed.
"However, I do not want to put either this important work or U of R Press in jeopardy. As such, I am respectfully withdrawing my work from this anthology."
A spokesperson for the six writers said they were unable to immediately respond, saying "We need time. We are tired from this all."
However, in a previous interview with CBC, letter signatory and Haisla novelist Eden Robinson said she believes violence against women needs to be addressed.
"It's a little painful because I have worked with Neal.… We had a good working relationship," said Robinson.
"Aside from the individuals involved, our society seems to let a lot of violence against women slide and I think changing that begins with everybody."
U of R Press publisher Bruce Walsh originally defended McLeod's right to be published in the book, citing McLeod's ownership of his actions and the fact he underwent "intensive therapy."
"I believe there can be redemption for violent men, just as there can be for anyone," said Walsh in a previous interview with CBC.
"Writing provides a means to promote healing for so many like Neal, shaped by intergenerational trauma and colonialism."
The publisher offered to provide additional space for the authors of the letter in the anthology to write about violence toward women, but that offer was declined, he said.