Canadian court rejects mother’s lawsuit to ban indigenous ceremony in children’s schools |  Canada

Canadian court rejects mother’s lawsuit to ban indigenous ceremony in children’s schools | Canada

Canadian court rejects mother’s lawsuit to ban indigenous ceremony in children’s schools |  Canada

A Canadian court has again rejected a mother’s claims that Indigenous cultural events at her children’s school violated their religious freedoms, ordering her to pay costs after revelations that her lawsuit had been secretly funded by an advocacy organization Christian activists.

Candice Servatius, an evangelical Protestant, complained in 2016 after an elder performed a smudge demonstration at her children’s school in the western British Columbia town of Port Alberni. A hoop dancer even recited a prayer while performing at a school assembly.

Prior to the event, parents received a letter informing them that students would participate holding a cedar branch to “feel the bristles…students and class. When Servatius went to school, he found that the ceremony had already occurred.

Despite Servatius’s claim that “her children were forced to participate in a religious ceremony,” the British Columbia supreme court ruled against her in 2020. Justice Douglas Thompson concluded that the events were intended to teach students about indigenous culture and participation was not mandatory.

In his ruling, Thompson also found that while the students observed a smudging ceremony and circle dance, they “held no cedar branches and were not stained or otherwise clean.”

This week, an appeals court agreed with the trial court, calling the involvement of public educational institutions such as schools in reconciliation efforts with indigenous communities “non-controversial”. The school is located within traditional Nuu-chah-nulth territory, and nearly one-third of the school district’s students are Indigenous, according to the British Columbia court of appeals.

“Significant efforts have been made to repair the historic legacy of schools being a dangerous place for Indigenous children and to help create better outcomes for Indigenous students,” wrote Justice Susan Griffin.

He also pointed to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the province three years ago, which calls for indigenous culture and tradition to be reflected in the province’s schools.

When he ruled in 2020, Judge Thompson did not force Servatius to pay the costs, believing his family lacked the funds to compensate the school district for the litigation.

But after appealing the decision, the appeals court learned that her case had been funded by the Calgary-based Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF).

Justice Griffin wrote the revelations of the group secretly funding Servatius “underscores the importance of transparency about who is the real party funding the litigation” and concluding that the JCCF’s role “insulated” Servatius from the costs associated with the “waste of court resources for minor claims that usually would not warrant a lawsuit.”

The appeals court ordered Servatius to pay the school district’s expenses, both for the supreme court and the appellate court hearings.

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