Parents angry Montreal teachers wore headdresses on 1st day of school
School board says the idea was so children would know which 'family, or class, to go to'
A Montreal borough school has infuriated some parents after handing out construction paper headdresses on the first day of classes.
Two teachers at Lajoie elementary school in Outremont were wearing First Nations headdresses and giving paper ones to the children to wear, according to parent Jennifer Dorner.
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Dorner posted about the incident on her Facebook page and the post has already been shared hundreds of times.
"In our family, we teach our children about cultural respect, we teach them the importance of honouring Indigenous cultures," Dorner posted.
"We teach them about privilege and the history of genocide in our country."
She told CBC News that she has asked the school's principal for a meeting, accompanied by one of her Indigenous friends.
Gina Guillemette, a Marguerite-Bourgeoys school board spokesperson, told CBC News that the headdresses were worn so children would know which "family, or class, to go to."
Both teachers have backgrounds in anthropology and history and they are introducing Indigenous history into the curriculum at the Grade 3 level, according to Guillemette.
Guillemette said the school board apologizes if the activity offended anyone.
Another parent replied to the original post on Facebook, saying it was challenging for her to navigate.
"I certainly did not expect this display on our first day," Jenny Jeanes wrote.
"[I] felt kind of awful telling my nervous kids about how disrespectful it was, all the while hoping they like their new school!"
What upset Dorner the most is the position she says it puts young children in.
"Children like my daughter and niece are very sensitive to these issues, they sensed the tension and didn't know how to behave. I think it's unfair for the school to put them in this position," Dorner said.
A need for education
Dorner's sister, Sarah Dorner, has an eight-year-old at the school and told CBC Montreal's Homerun the girl was uncomfortable and didn't want to take part in the activity.
Dorner believes the teacher's headdress activity was well-intentioned.
"It's a celebration day. They're excited for the kids. But I felt bad because they don't know that this is a bad idea," Dorner said.
She said the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommended more education and she said this is a case where the need for that shows.
"Especially when you're putting a child in that situation when they have to make tough choices when they just want to have fun with their friends," she said.
She thinks this situation highlights a need to learn how to teach children about different cultures.
"It sounds to me like some voices are not being heard in our school boards — in Quebec — and we have to listen to them," Dorner said.
With files from Sean Henry and CBC Montreal's Homerun