'It was really just blatant Blackface in a way': French Catholic School Board deals with fallout after London principal wears Black student's hair as wig
LONDON, ONT. -- The French Catholic school board in London is dealing with fallout after what some allege to be racist incidents involving a secondary school principal, which were shared on social media.
"It was really just blatant Blackface in a way," said Ghaida Hamdun, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter (BLM) London.
Hamdun tells CTV News London a former student at Monseigneur-Bruyère high school in the Conseil scolaire catholique Providence brought to the group’s attention a pair of incidents involving the school’s principal, which upset a number of students at the time.
Hamdun said that in the spring of 2019, a Black male student shaved his hair as part of a fundraiser honouring a fellow student who was fighting cancer. Principal Luc Chartrand reportedly collected the student’s hair and wore it as a wig.
A four-second video shared on the BLM Instagram account appears to show an adult male donning a wig at a school assembly.
But that’s not where it ended. Chartrand allegedly hung onto the hair, then brought it out six months later when he once again wore it as a wig and dressed up as the Black student for a Halloween costume. A photo shared on social media by BLM appears to show Chartrand wearing the wig and dressed in an athletic tank top.
"It is unfair for a non-Black person to dress up as a Black person as a costume, because our skin colour and our hair isn’t a costume," said Hamdun. "Even if he asked permission from that student to take his hair, why would he ask permission in the first place? A student shouldn’t be the one to tell him ‘hey maybe you shouldn’t dress up as me at Halloween. That’s very creepy and unprofessional of you to do,’ and also borderline racist. He should know better."
CTV News London spoke with a former student who wishes to remain anonymous who was present at, and confirmed, the events described above.
City Councillor Arielle Kayabaga, who attended the school a decade earlier, responded to the incident on Twitter.
"This is a principal in #LdnOnt Ontario who collected students hair, tapped (sic) it together and made a Halloween wig with it and the school board refused to deal with it! @CscProvidence we need more accountability and answers on this disgusting behavior! #antiblackness."
Conseil scolaire catholique Providence issued a statement to CTV News in response to the matter. It reads in part:
"We strongly condemn this type of behaviour and maintain a zero tolerance policy toward any racism, discrimination, or the appearance thereof. As such, we have immediately removed the principal from his current position.
"We have taken steps this year in our endeavour to promote equity, diversity and inclusion with our staff and students."
Some are now left wondering why the school board waited so long to react, and did so only after details of the incidents were shared on social media.
"That does not mean he’s been removed from teaching at the school or for the school board," said Hamdun, who studies children’s health at Brock University.
"That school is from Grade Seven to Grade 12. Those are developmental stages that are crucial for children, so when they see people of leadership exhibiting those racist behaviours, no doubt they will think it’s okay and do that same thing."
The school board also stated it has taken steps to promote equity, diversity and inclusion. These steps include hiring a human rights and equity advisor, working with other boards to develop demographic data of students and staff, and reviewing policies and procedures related to hiring practices.
CTV News reached out to Chartrand, who provided a written statement/apology that he has shared with Black Lives Matter.
Here is some of what he had to say:
"Today, I would like to sincerely apologize for the incidents and for my personal behaviour in the events which have led to all this turmoil, surrounding racist allegations, at École secondaire catholique Monseigneur-Bruyère. My behaviour during those incidents and events was totally not acceptable. I realize that I showed a great lack of judgment and I strongly regret and am ashamed of what I have done. I realize that I could have and should have celebrated this student’s accomplishments and success in a different manner. I want to offer my most sincere apologies to the student and to his family, to all Black students and parents of the school, to the entire school community and also to the entire BIPOC community."
Chartrand added that he wishes he could take back what he has done.
"I can only pray that I will have your forgiveness and that we can all move forward together."