LETHBRIDGE — A handful of students at the University of Lethbridge are under investigation related to incidents during a symposium on how to revitalize indigenous languages in the province.
In one incident, two male students are accused of tossing coins from a walkway onto conference participants below.
University president Bill Cade says a different group of young men allegedly “mimicked chanting going on in the atrium associated with indigenous languages.”
“I wasn’t there but as it was described to me these were fairly rude and certainly, in one case, acts that I think have to be interpreted in the context of racism,” said Cade.
The incidents were captured on security cameras and Cade says the students involved have been identified.
The students could face expulsion or suspension.
Cade says he has spoken to conference organizers expressing his anger and regret about the incidents.
About 200 First Nations language teachers, students and elders attended the conference which ran Friday and Saturday at the university.
Narcisse Blood, a teacher at Red Crow College, said most of those attending the symposium were upset but determined to make the most of the gathering.
“I really feel Lethbridge needs to deal with this insidious issue,” Blood said. “Racism is ugly and it doesn’t matter who does it.”
While Blood said he believes university officials will handle the students appropriately, the situation demands a broader discussion since racism can occur in any part of the city.
“Lethbridge is situated on Blackfoot land and moreover, we spend well over $100 million a year towards the economy of Lethbridge,” he said.
“We’ve got to hold each other to standards that are higher and that say Canada is not racist and that Lethbridge is not a racist community.”