First Nations teen told to stop smudging or face suspension from school
Published Thursday, February 6, 2014 9:07PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, February 6, 2014 10:21PM EST
A First Nations teenager in Manitoba has been threatened with suspension from school for smudging before classes.
Stephen Bunn, 17, says he uses smudging -- which involves burning dried sage leaves and other herbs -- as a healing process. He said his entire family has been smudging as often as possible to cope with his younger brother’s suicide.
But Bunn said officials at Crocus Plains high school in Brandon, Man., have told him three separate times that he would be suspended if he came to school smelling of sage.
Bunn has told broadcaster APTN that a teacher mistook the smell and accused him of smoking marijuana. He also said he has been questioned in the principal’s office about drug use.
The Brandon School Division says it’s enforcing a policy that encourages all students from having a “strong scent.”
But one lawyer says preventing any student from smudging, even outside of school, is an infringement of a basic human right.
Norm Boudreau told CTV Winnipeg that the school has a duty to accommodate Bunn and anyone else who wants to practice their faith.
Bunn said he will continue smudging no matter what.
“It actually helps me feel more confident about my day,” he said. “It just gives me an idea that my brother is around and he’s taking care of me from up there.”
With a report from CTV Winnipeg