A human rights complaint involving a white teacher who appeared in blackface makeup for a videotaped spoof of a black co-worker has ended in an apology almost six years after it was filed.
On Thursday afternoon, the P.E.I. Human Rights Commission posted a statement on its website in which Robert Maddix, chair of the French Language School Board, apologized to anyone who might have been offended by the March 5, 2007, incident at École Francois Buote in Charlottetown.
“The French School Board acknowledges that the skit was inappropriate and unacceptable and regrets that the comments made by Mr. Gilles Benoit, the school principal, may have given the impression that the incident was not a serious matter,” Maddix said in the statement.
“The French School Board wishes to ensure no person or group feels discriminated against.”
The video was shown at a staff meeting and left the targeted staff member looking for apologies from the three teachers involved.
She later said she was satisfied with apologies from three teachers and didn’t want to pursue the matter further.
After the incident, Benoit, who has since become the board’s superintendent, told the CBC the video was a minor incident gone awry.
Along with the apology, the board will also hold education sessions as part of the settlement.
There was no financial compensation requested or ordered.
The apology was posted in French and English on the Human Rights Commission’s website and in French only on the school board’s website.
Noel Ayangma, who filed the complaint, said he wasn’t directly involved in what happened but he thought the response at the time was insensitive.
Ayangma said part of the reason the complaint took so long to resolve was because he wanted the apology made public.
“Discrimination is not acceptable,” he said.
Now that the complaint has finally been resolved after almost six years, Ayangma said it was frustrating because the lawyers involved were the ones who benefited from it taking so long.
“I’m happy that this chapter is going to be closed,” he said.