We stand in solidarity with the Atlantic Canada Palestinian Society, and their call to write letters to the School Board of the Park West School in Halifax, the Halifax Regional Centre and the minister of Education for Education as an effective way to advocate for Palestinian human rights and their existence.
Background: On Wednesday, March 1st, 2023 the Park West School in Halifax organized a multicultural day, where students from various cultural backgrounds came together to celebrate their heritage. The event aimed to promote cultural understanding and diversity among students, and it encouraged them to wear traditional clothing and accessories from their respective cultures.
However, the event took an unfortunate turn when students from Palestinian descent were asked to remove their Kufiyah, a traditional Palestinian garment that symbolizes their identity and culture. The school principal claimed that the Kufiyah represented “war colors” and forced the students to put it down. This insensitive act sparked outrage among the students and the community, emphasizing the importance of cultural sensitivity and respect for diversity in educational institutions. The incident serves as a reminder that cultural expression and inclusivity should be at the forefront of school policies and practices to ensure a safe and supportive learning environment for all students.
Writing a letter to the School Board of the Park West School in Halifax and the Halifax Regional Centre and the minister of Education for Education is an effective way to advocate for Palestinian human rights and their existence. By sharing your perspective on the kufiyah, a symbol of Palestinian identity, you can help educate and promote understanding of the cultural significance of this symbol. It’s crucial to emphasize that the kufiyah has never represented the “color of war” and to dispel any misconceptions about its meaning. By standing up for Palestinian human rights, we can make a difference and promote a more equitable world. Your voice matters, so don’t hesitate to express your support for this cause.
CBC article: Clothing worn on culture day at Halifax school causes controversy, March 6, 2023 quoted:
Lana Khammish, president of the Atlantic Canada Palestinian Society, said despite school officials categorizing the incident as a misunderstanding or miscommunication, students and parents say it happened.
Khammish says an investigation is required and the society is calling for training programs for educators, staff and children on anti-Palestinian racism.
UPDATE: The director of the Halifax Regional Centre for Education sent out the message below to the families of all 57,000 students in the city, along with all staff.
See the statement:
March 4, 2023
I am taking the unusual step of sending a message on Saturday because I believe it is important to provide people with information.
Last week, it came to my attention that an incident took place at Park West School that has caused distress in our community.
On Cultural Day, a day to celebrate the diversity of the school community, concerns arose regarding specific students’ actions. The matter was reviewed by the administration and discussed privately with the students and their families. Following the incident, many in the Palestinian and other communities came to believe that students were banned from wearing the Kufiyah, a traditional scarf to school. This is not the case.
I assure you that in HRCE schools, students are always welcome to express themselves in ways that maintain safety, dignity and respect for themselves, their classmates and their cultures. There are no bans on what students choose to wear to school.
In the past few days, we have received thousands of emails from concerned families and community members – locally and across the country – calling for this “ban” to be overturned. It was a remarkable demonstration of Canada’s commitment to freedom and diversity and a privilege to witness.
As a public education system, our highest priority is to ensure inclusive learning environments, where all students feel safe, accepted, and valued while in school – for exactly who they are. Our goal is to bring people together through education.
This situation signals that there is more work to be done within our system to build trust and acceptance. Members of our Diversity team will be at the school on Monday to work with the staff and students. The principal will also reach out to her community in the coming days.
On behalf of HRCE, I am deeply sorry for any harm this situation has caused the Palestinian community and others who have been impacted.
All the Best,
Steve Gallagher | Regional Executive Director (Acting) | Halifax Regional Centre for Education | 464-2000 ext. 2312