Smudging demonstration violated girl's religious rights, B.C. mother says in lawsuit
VANCOUVER – A B.C. mother is launching a lawsuit four years after a smudging ceremony was held in her daughter's classroom, saying it infringed on the girl's rights.
The Port Alberni parent says her child has the right to respect religious neutrality, but that right was violated when she was denied permission to leave the room.
The girl asked to leave during a demonstration of an Indigenous smudging ceremony at John Howitt Elementary School in September 2015, which was meant as a cultural teaching.
"They were smudging a wall and a chair, and it was to show the students this is how a Nuu-chah-nulth person would smudge themselves," tribal council president Judith Sayers told CTV News Vancouver Island.
"There were no prayers to go with it. It was just a demonstration."
But the Vancouver Island mother says she doesn't share the same beliefs, and is launching a lawsuit against the school district.
She says her daughter asked to leave the room, and was told by the teacher that it would be rude. She was told to stay in class and participate, the mother claims.
"We believe that the government cannot compel citizens to participate in supernatural or religious ceremonies. That's the law," her lawyer Jay Cameron said.
"My client objects to that because she doesn't believe in that, and there was no parental consent."
Sayers says she was "quite shocked" about the lawsuit.
"For us, this is just our cuture, our belief, our way of life, our spirituality, which can't be equated to religion."
The school district and the family head to court this week.
With a report from CTV News Vancouver Island's Sarah Reid