Smudging ceremonies differ from nation to nation. (Photo by Jason Vanderhill/Flickr)

SD82 respects the courts decision on smudging ceremonies

Coast Mountains School District 82 says they respect the decision of a B.C. Supreme Court judge who ruled against a Vancouver Island mother claiming her daughter’s religious rights were violated when an indigenous smudging ceremony was performed in her elementary school classroom.

“I don’t have a feeling about the decision and I respect the courts and the decisions they make. So we [SD82] respect that,” says Agnes Casgrain, director of instruction, Indigenous Education at SD82.

Casgrain says SD82 facilitates smudging ceremonies very rarely and only when a school or community requests it. It usually takes places outside of school property.

“It’s voluntary and no student is forced to go. Parents are informed and know it is not a regular process,” she says.

“We’ve had no push back, parents have been totally supportive. Most of the time it [smudging ceremonies] goes on in communities.”

Casgrain says the Ministry of Education dictated that schools should teach kids about Indigenous practice and culture and smudging ceremonies fall under that category.

RELATED: ‘Our culture is not a religion,’ Indigenous educator tells court in smudging case

“The practices differ from nation to nation, and we have 10 nations in our district. So the practice we use depends on the territory, and someone from the nation comes and leads it. We follow the directives of the nation.”

Candice Servatius, an evangelical Christian from Port Alberni, had filed a petition in the Supreme Court of B.C. against Alberni School District 70, claiming that her daughter’s rights to religious freedom were infringed on when she participated in a Nuu-chah-nulth smudging ceremony at John Howitt Elementary School in September 2015.

Servatius also says the school district breached its duty of neutrality and that her daughter experienced “anxiety, shame and confusion as a result” of the ceremony.

The Attorney General of B.C. and the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council were also named in Servatius’s petition, which sought a court-ordered ban on smudging in schools across the province.

RELATED: Student tells B.C. court she wasn’t allowed to leave Indigenous smudging ceremony

A week-long hearing took place in a Nanaimo courtroom late last year.

In his 47-page ruling released last week, Justice Douglas Thompson dismissed the case, explaining that Servatius “failed to establish” that the smudging ceremony infringed on her or her children’s “ability to act in accordance with their religious beliefs.”

Thompson noted religious freedom is not compromised when students are taught about other beliefs.

In her affidavit, Servatius’s daughter says she was forced to remain in the classroom while the smudging ceremony took place and that “there was so much smoke” she had difficulty seeing.

But in his ruling, Thompson says Servatius’s daughter’s memory of “important details” was “not accurate” and that claims of coercion and being uncomfortable during the ceremony were false.

He also says Servatius’s daughter did not raise her concerns with her teacher, despite claiming she did and that the room was not filled with as much smoke as she described.

RELATED: Teacher says student was ‘happy’ to watch smudging ceremony at Alberni school

ALSO READ: Nuu-chah-Nulth Tribal Council hopes for resolution in SD70 court case


Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
Jenna Cocullo 
Send Jenna email
Like the The Northern View on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

CGL must revise impact assessment on Unist’ot’en Healing Center

Environmental Assessment Office not satisfied with report’s shortcomings

Confusion surrounds terms of RCMP withdrawal from pipeline construction area

B.C. Deputy Commissioner clarifies terms of agreement following minister’s statements

Two Terrace ringette athletes help regional team win silver

The Pacific Ring AA Ringette Tournament took place in Richmond, B.C.

Groups in Terrace receive grants from logging profits

Money comes from the city-owned Terrace Community Forest fund

VIDEO: 2020 BC Winter Games wrap up in Fort St. John as torch passes to Maple Ridge

More than 1,000 athletes competed in the 2020 BC Winter Games

‘A long way to go’: UNBC hosts Moose Hide Campaign gathering on Feb. 24

The event is a part of a movement to stand up against violence inflicted on women and children

Still six cases of COVID-19 in B.C. despite reports of Air Canada passenger: ministry

Health ministry wouldn’t comment on specific flight routes

Violent ends to past Indigenous protests haunt Trudeau government

Trudeau adopted a more assertive tone Friday, insisting the barricade must come down

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

B.C. money laundering inquiry to begin amid hopes for answers, accountability

Eby argued that most B.C. residents already know the previous government, at best, turned a blind eye

Blockades remain in place as Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs returning to B.C.

Hereditary Chief Woos said they are ready to engage in nation-to-nation talks with the B.C.

Most Read