Edith Rogers community hopeful racist incident will increase awareness

EDMONTON — The principal of Edith Rogers says the companies involved in a racist incident near the campus last week continue to work with the school and staff to address the issue.

Last Friday, Wilco Contractors Northwest employees were accused of disrespecting an Indigenous smudging ceremony happening at the school while working under contract for Sureway Construction Group at the nearby EPCOR dry pond.

“The president of the company reached out to our school with an apology, sharing that they ‘deeply regret the impact and damage this had on the extremely important students’ learning opportunity centered around reconciliation and Indigenous culture’ and that this behaviour was completely unacceptable,” principal Stacy Fysh told families in a Sept. 30 letter.

One worker was fired, a review was launched, and the three construction partners promised a $30,000 donation to the amiskwaciy Academy.

Edith Rogers’ Indigenous liaison, who lead the Friday ceremony, said he was proud of the public division for promoting cultural learning and of its students for their mature, sensitive and enlightened response.

“While I still have great concern about this incident, I also have great hope,” Corey Wells said.

“I am hopeful that this experience will assist our efforts towards increased awareness, and the confirmation that racism does exist in our communities. I am hopeful our students will heal and grow to be strong allies in the efforts toward eradicating bigotry and prejudice. I am hopeful they will feel empowered as a result of this experience.”

Smudging is an Indigenous cleansing or blessing practice that involves burning sacred herbs.

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