London principal removed from position after backlash over wearing student’s dreadlocks

Luc Chartrand, Principal of l'École Secondaire Catholique Monseigneur-Bruyère in London Ont. pictured wearing a black student's dreadlocks as a halloween costume seven months after they were cut off at a cancer fundraiser. Luc Chartrand, Principal of l'École Secondaire Catholique Monseigneur-Bruyère in London Ont. pictured wearing a black student's dreadlocks as a halloween costume seven months after they were cut off at a cancer fundraiser.

A principal at a French school in London, Ont., has been removed from his position after a picture of him wearing a student’s dreadlocks that were cut off as part of a cancer fundraiser was posted online.

The picture and video date back to 2019 and were shared by Black Lives Matter (BLM) London on Friday night. In a post, BLM London said in spring 2019, students at l’École Secondaire Catholique Monseigneur-Bruyère in London, Ont., held a fundraiser for a student with cancer. At the fundraiser, several students, including a Black male student with dreadlocks, shaved their heads in support of the cause.

The video and pictures show Principal Luc Chartrand wearing the young man’s hair as a wig.

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The post from BLM London said Chartrand was asked to stop by several students and did not.

Six months later, a former student said Chartrand then showed up to school dressed as the student for Halloween, wearing the student’s hair.

“It’s very odd and racially weird and insensitive,” said a former student who says they witnessed the event and spoke to Global News anonymously.

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The former student said most people were “grossed out” by the incident or found it “weird.”

“If (students) did not recognize the racial thing, they said that it was gross how he kept someone’s hair for six months, and then on the racial side, it was why would you put someone’s dreads on your head and dress up as a black kid.”

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Joseph Picard, director general of Le Conseil Scolaire Catholique Providence, the school board which runs Monseigneur-Bruyère, confirmed to Global News on Saturday that they were aware of the video and Chartrand has now been removed from his current position.

“We strongly condemn this type of behaviour and maintain a zero-tolerance policy toward any racism, discrimination, or the appearance thereof.”

The board did not comment on why Chartrand was not removed in 2019 when the incident first happened.

The former student said the hair incident was just one of several cases of racism towards people of colour at the school.

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In June 2020, the former student said they and several other students collected a list of racism and micro-aggressions towards people of colour at the school by staff and students. The former student says the list was sent to the school board, calling for accountability and workshops for staff to understand what they can and can’t say and have anti-racism policies hung up in the school.

One student reported being called a cotton picker by a classmate.

The former student said when they read books with the N-word, white teachers would often say the word despite several students asking them not to use it.

In the statement, the director general said the board has taken several steps this year to promote equality and diversity by hiring a human rights and equity advisor to help with training on anti-Black and Indigenous racism for trustees and senior administration.

The statement said the board is also reviewing its practices and procedures regarding hiring practices and is working with other boards to develop a tool for collecting socio-demographic data on students and staff to ensure their teachers are representative of the different demographics in the school.

“We posted just the picture and the story, and then folks took it upon themselves to contribute stories, and that’s when we got the video,” said Black Lives Matter London’s lead activist, Alexandra Kane.

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“In 2019, accountability culture was not necessarily a thing, so while students did complain, there was no public outcry.”

Since the initial post, a video of the incident and several other stories of racism at the school have been posted anonymously on BLM London’s Facebook page.

“It’s not this incident, it’s so much more, so many micro-aggressions and overt racism,” Kane said.

A statement posted to Facebook on Sunday afternoon from an account claiming to belong to Chartrand states that he realizes he showed a “great lack of judgment.”

“I strongly regret and am ashamed of what I have done,” the statement reads.

It goes on to offer apologies to the student and his family, to all Black students and parents of the school, to the entire school community and to the entire BIPOC community.

“I continue to educate myself on the matter and wholeheartedly support and appreciate the Black Lives Matter movement,” he adds.

“I want to put my energy towards preventing people from making the same offensive mistake I have done and I want to prove this to you, moving forward. Again, I assume full responsibility for my actions.”

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In a post on Monday, Black Lives Matter London said it “received an ‘apology’ from an Instagram account allegedly controlled by Chartrand” but “feel there is still much to discuss.”

BLM London says it wants to take its time “to prepare an official statement that reflects the concerns of those harmed by Luc Chartrand’s actions.”

“The issues and concerns raised by these individuals signify a much larger problem than just the now-infamous ‘wig’ incident,” Monday’s post reads.

— with files from Global News’ Jacquelyn LeBel.

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