A First Nations woman has filed a petition with the Supreme Court of British Columbia, asking for a judicial review of a decision concerning a teacher who meted out a school punishment in which a boy was tied at the ankle to another boy.
Jo-Ann Nahanee, who is the great aunt of one of the boys, has asked the court to review a decision by the B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation, which cleared the teacher involved.
The Commissioner for Teacher Regulation is a provincial regulatory body that deals with teacher competence and conduct.
The boy, a member of the Squamish Nation, who was eight years old at the time, was tied at the ankle to another boy with t-shirt material strips as punishment for a full school day.
"This shouldn't happen to any child," Nahanee said in a phone interview.
The incident happened at Xwemelch'st Etsimxwawtxw, or the Capilano Little Ones First Nations School in West Vancouver in 2015.
In a statement to CBC, a spokesperson for the school, Chief Ian Campbell, said that the Squamish Nation conducted its own "thorough internal investigation" into the incident and found that no misconduct was found and no substantive action was required.
'Reminiscent of residential school'
Court documents say the boys were tied together as a "form of punishment given their history of being unable to not get along." The petition also says the boys' caregivers had consented to the strategy — but doesn't detail the length of time the caregivers agreed to have the boys tied up.
The two boys were tied three-legged race style, and at lunch time were told to stay off playground equipment to lessen risks of injury. At a later point in the day, the boys asked if they could take off the ties, but were denied.
Nahanee made a formal complaint with the B.C. Commissioner for Teacher Regulation at the time of the incident. She found out about the incident at a general meeting of the Squamish Nation.
She said the incident with the boys was reminiscent of what she experienced and witnessed at residential school.
"This happened to me and my sister in residential school; I watched her being tied together [to other students] like this, and the only difference today is that I can do something," Nahanee said.
Teacher was new
In a decision made in March 2017, The Commissioner for Teacher Regulation, Bruce Preston, said that the use of the 'three-legged strategy' was 'flawed' and said the students were not treated with respect or dignity.
Preston also noted that it was not sensitive to community members, some of whom are survivors or relatives of survivors of the Indian residential school system.
However, Preston concluded that the teacher who tied the boys together was not responsible because her immediate supervisor had made the call to use the ankle-tying strategy. He said that other strategies to help the boys to get along had been tried, and the teacher was new and recently certified.
But Nahanee said that she is still angry about the incident and hopes the petition filed will lead to a review of Preston's decision, and policy changes in the school too.
For its part, the Squamish Nation says it will continue to "monitor the situation and support all involved."
There have been no responses filed to the petition, which contains allegations that have not been tested in court.
The CBC contacted the Ministry of Education but it would not provide a comment until the election results are complete.