A Vancouver Island First Nation Group is firing back after a Port Alberni mother took School District 70 to court, claiming her kids were forced to participate in a traditional indigenous religious ceremony.
Vice President of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council Ken Watts says the First Nation group is disappointed the matter couldn’t be setted with the school district and has instead landed in court.
“When somebody does a payer, or a song or dance, that’s not our religion. That’s our culture, that’s our way of life, that’s who weare as Nuu-chah-nulth. And religion is a term that is coined by non-indiginous communities or other types of religions, that’s not a term we take on,” he says.
The incident in question involved a member of the Nuu-chah-nulth nation performing a cleansing ceremony in the classroom at John Howitt Elementary School , which included ‘smudging,’ fanning sage smoke to purify a space of negative energy.
In a court petition, Port Alberni mother Candice Servatius claims her kids were coerced into participating in the ceremony without her consent.
But Watts says while the Nuu-chah-nulth people are happy to share and teach their culture and identity – they aren’t interested in pushing it on anyone.
“I know many of our nations were quite frustrated that she’s bringing this to court when it doesn’t need to go that for. I don’t encourage anybody to feel forced to participate in any part of our song or dance or whatever it may be. It should be optional and the person should want to be involved,” he says.
He says its not up the courts to decide what is and isnt a religious ceremony.
Servatius, is asking B.C.’s Supreme Court to ban the school district from allowing any religious exercises in public schools.
B.C.’s new elementary school curriculum has laid out Aboriginal issues as a core component, with the directive to interweave aboriginal perspectives in all areas of learning.
None of the allegations has been proven in court.