(Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Territory/Kamloops – November 18, 2016)- This week the Justice Centre for
Constitutional Freedoms filed a petition for Candice Servatius asking the Courts for a Declaration that School
District 70 (SD 70) violated the right to religious freedom for her children, when her children participated and
observed Nuu-chah-nulth cultural practices in 2015 and 2016 at their elementary school. In 2015, her children
participated in a smudging ceremony, which Servatius said was done without her consent. The School District
has acknowledged they could have done a better job to inform parents and students that participation was
voluntary, and they have apologized for this. However, Servatius’ complaint letter to SD 70 in early 2016
regarding her children observing an Opening Prayer, which was followed by a Hoop Dance at an assembly,
called it “forced participation in spiritual/religious practices” and a “repeated offence”. Later, this position
was re-characterized in a letter dated July 12, 2016 from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms as
being “exposed to religious practice”.

While Mrs. Servatius has repeatedly expressed in her letters to SD 70 that she and her husband “would like
to be clear that [they] support [their] children learning about other cultures and traditions”, the fact that they
have admitted in their early 2016 letter to SD 70 that they struggled to have a conversation with their children
about the prayer recited by Teddy Anderson, who was “praying to a god but not the same God that we pray
to” demonstrates that the Servatius’ are perhaps not as capable of supporting their children in learning about
other cultures as they claim if they cannot articulate to their children the simple concept of cultural and
religious diversity in a pluralist society; namely, that different people pray to different gods.

Regional Chief Shane Gottfriedson has commented that “an Indigenous culture is not religion, and to say it is
because there is ceremony or prayer does not make it the truth. Because of what our cultures have endured
to survive through colonization, many places have started to include and encourage Indigenous cultural
teachings in areas like education to foster reconciliation, awareness, and tolerance between different groups
– especially here in BC. What has happened at this elementary school in Port Alberni highlights the work that
still needs to be done to include and welcome everyone into the process of reconciliation, we need everyone
on board.”

Cultural initiatives, such as the ones undertaken by SD 70, should be welcomed in the spirit of reconciliation,
not met with anger and outrage by starting an action in the Courts claiming an infringement on religious
freedoms. Given SD 70’s mandate from the Province of British Columbia to include authentic Aboriginal
content in their curriculum, the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, and the United Nations Declaration
on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the BCAFN applauds SD 70 for their efforts to include Nuu-chah-nulth
culture in their curriculum and supports them as they move forward in this litigation.