A growing rift between Muslims and Canadian public schools is emerging after an Edmonton teacher supposedly berated a Muslim student for not participating in Pride celebrations.
"You are out to lunch if you think it's acceptable not to show up because… Pride activities are going on at school," said the unnamed Londonderry school teacher.
The two-minute recording began with the teacher shaming a student. She said they fielded no complaints from non-Muslims during Ramadan, which the school body acknowledged.
"It goes two ways!" said the teacher. "If you want to be respected for who you are, if you don't want to suffer prejudice for your religion, your colour of skin, your whatever, then you better give it back to people who are different than you."
"We believe in freedom, we believe that people can marry whomever they want…and if you don't think that should be the law, you can't be Canadian," she told the individual student. "You don't belong here, and I mean it."
Londonderry principal Ed Charpentier wrote a reconciliatory letter to parents, emphasizing "the views expressed by the teacher do not reflect the values of acceptance, inclusion and belonging that are so strong at Londonderry School."
Edmonton Public Schools (EPS) confirmed the authenticity of the recording. They informed the public it is "taking steps to address the situation." However, they declined to specify what, claiming privacy concerns.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) called the teacher's comments deeply 'Islamophobic,' inappropriate and harassing.
"This is unacceptable," wrote the NCCM. "While we know that the school administration has apologized for this behaviour, we will be following up to determine what steps are being taken to challenge hate and discrimination."
A plethora of online comments have called for the teacher's outright dismissal.
Muslims across Canada had publicly opposed in-school Pride events, most notably with a series of mass absences at London elementary schools on May 17, when schools acknowledged the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
A spokesperson for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board told CTV that some parents indicated their child would not attend class due to the Pride activities.
"Where parents provided information for absences, some kept their children home due to the heat warning in effect. There were also schools with higher absence rates where parents indicated they did not wish to send their children to school due to Pride activities that may be taking place," said the board.
Ottawa's public school board reported nine of its schools had absent rates over 40%, with two schools exceeding 60%. Thorncliffe Park Public School reported 1,220 of its 1,350 students did not attend class, with nearly 100 parents protesting outside the building.
The London Council of Imams said parents "should use their discretion" on whether to keep their children home on select days.
The organization said while they were "not in the position" to direct parents to keep their children home, they clarified that "a secular school board, public schools should not be taking positions to promote a certain set of values and beliefs over or at the expense of others."