A Winnipeg School Division school trustee says Kelvin High School teacher Brad Badiuk's Facebook comments about aboriginal people are "offensive and ignorant, and require leaders to stand up."
Sherri Rollins, trustee for Ward 1, said she "emphatically denounces" the comments Badiuk made on Facebook about aboriginal people and the grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.
Badiuk has been placed on paid leave while the school division investigates.
Rollins, a former aboriginal issues policy analyst, said she's speaking out because she's worried about the impact of the comments on aboriginal students and parents in the division.
"Absolutely," she said. "We teach our kids to stand up against bullying in any form. So as a trustee, ... I want to make sure that I'm emulating that."
Rollins said that as an aboriginal person herself and someone committed to providing an education that "fully depicts the history of this country," she had a strong reaction to reading the story on CBC's website.
"Reconciliation starts with education, and education has to play a role in making this country a better place," she said.
"Misinformed, divisive comments like that ... have no place in civil discourse and cannot be left unchallenged."
Rollins is calling on the school division to create an advisory council on aboriginal education, "to provide aboriginal voices to the Winnipeg School Division on a constant and consistent basis."
She also wants that council to renew the division's aboriginal education policy.
"Our division ... has really great things going on and is arguably a national and international leader," she said. "Our chief superintendent has done wonderful work and we wanted to maintain [the] momentum ...[of] Children of the Earth High School or Niji Mahkwa [School]. That I think is the way forward ... so that aboriginal families like mine can feel the confidence they should in the Winnipeg School Division."
The school division is to vote on Rollins's motion to create the council on Tuesday.
Aboriginal student surprised 'someone so racist' at Kelvin
Maggie Ziervogel, 19, graduated from Kelvin High School in 2012 and said she was surprised that someone with such controversial opinions was working at the school.
She took a shop class taught by Badiuk but "didn't really know him." But knowing a lot of the other teachers, most were very open-minded, she said.
"I'm surprised that with the teachers at Kelvin being tolerant and aware of every student that they would have someone so racist working in the school," Ziervogel said.
She said she had positive experiences with her teachers and that the curriculum offered a lot of First Nations issues and history.
She said she was concerned though, that the comments would appeal to others with racist views.
"I think the fact that he would post those things on Facebook, it makes it public for everyone to know. Now everyone sees it and maybe there's some racist students out there that now view him better," she said.
U of M dean says teachers must learn too
David Mandzuk, the dean of education at the University of Manitoba, says Badiuk's posts show that more work needs to be done.
Mandzuk says for the past five years, education students have had to take at least two courses on aboriginal education, but that might not be enough.
"Even though we've made an incredible amount of progress both at the university end, the preparation end and the in service end for practising teachers, this has set us back a little bit."
Mandzuk says the Badiuk case is only one teacher, but more education may be needed to help change attitudes.
Privacy lawyer says onus is on school division to act
Todd Andres, a Winnipeg privacy lawyer, said there are several cases in Canada where Facebook and Twitter posts made outside the workplace have been grounds for discipline.
Andres said Badiuk's comments could have a profound impact on the Winnipeg School Division's reputation, since its mandate is to educate all students equally.
"If he's made comments that jeopardize his ability to do things that are in accordance with the mandate, then it's difficult to see how he can continue to carry on in that role," Andres said.
He said the school division must take action against Badiuk to protect its reputation.
"If they take steps, I think they can mitigate their reputational harm that could come out of this," he said. "If they don't, then I think they may be hard-pressed to justify any lack of action."
Andres said a good start to the process would be public apology from Badiuk.