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Balfour Collegiate students upset at teacher’s remarks on MMIW Day in Regina

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Balfour Collegiate students upset at teacher’s remarks on MMIW Day in Regina
Students at Regina's Balfour Collegiate are upset with insensitive comments that were allegedly made by a teacher at their school regarding MMIW Day – May 24, 2022

May 5th marks a day of commemorating Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) in Canada. It’s also known as “Red Dress Day,” when red dresses are worn or displayed to symbolize those who are still missing.

As students at Regina’s Balfour Collegiate tell Global News, it was also meant to be a day of learning at their school.

“We basically just learned about missing and murdered Indigenous women all day and in the morning,” said Nina McGillis, Grade 12 Balfour Collegiate student.

“We had a session so we would have story sharing.”

Read more: Families and Indigenous leaders gather in Regina for Red Dress Day

But on that day, McGillis said she heard inappropriate comments from one of the school’s teachers. McGillis alleges one of the school’s teachers was insensitive to the intent of MMIW Day.

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“He was basically just making a mockery of the entire day, calling it stupid and dumb (and) saying that we shouldn’t even have this day,” said McGillis, who identifies as Indigenous. “Honestly, I … was shocked.

“I just couldn’t believe that he was saying this because our schools really cares about Indigenous students. And hearing that from one of their own teachers from Balfour Collegiate, I was just disgusted.”

Another senior student at Balfour Collegiate, Calista Poorman-Desjarlais, says she heard the comments from others students and became upset which led to her and several students bringing the issue to the attention of the principal and vice-principal.

“Me and some students went to do a talking circle, and we had heard his apology (but) he didn’t come in and say it to us,” said Calista Poorman-Desjarlais. “The vice-principal came into the talking circle … at the cultural centre … and read an apology from the teacher.”

According to Poorman-Desjarlais, the written apology took place on Friday, May 20, 2022, in the cultural room at Balfour Collegiate. When asked what she thought about letter, Poorman-Desjarlais said she did not accept it.

Read more: Cross-Canada MMIWG2 walk reaches Saskatchewan

“As much as I don’t want to say bad things about someone. (The letter apology) just felt so insincere,” she said. “I couldn’t accept it because it just sounded so rehearse(d), you know, like instead of being about him realizing, like, ‘I get it.’ It seemed like he was making excuses.”

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Global News reached out to Balfour Collegiate and to the teacher in question for a response, but none was received by deadline.

The Regina Public School Division (RPS) responded with an emailed statement and said they were made aware of the issue on Tuesday, May 17, and that steps were taken to address the issue at the school level.

“Specifically, the use of words that may have been perceived as insensitive,” stated Terry Lazarou, RPS Communications. “It is our understanding that this issue has been rectified.”

RPS added that neither the school division nor Balfour Collegiate will be commenting further on this issue.

Global News reached out to the Saskatchewan Teacher Federation. The federation said they cannot comment on this matter.

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