Epcor contractor fires workers, make $30,000 donation after racist smudge ceremony encounter at school

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On Saturday, a Twitter user identifying as a teacher at Edith Rogers School, said construction workers “revved their engines and yelled racial insults at staff and students” while the school hosted a smudging ceremony Friday.

On September 25, we let down the community,” the company tweeted Tuesday. “We apologize unreservedly to the students and staff who were hurt by these actions. We take full responsibility for what occurred, and we are taking concrete action to ensure this never happens again.”

The company said it undertook an internal and external review and terminated the staff who were involved. They also announced they will be implementing cultural and Indigenous awareness training.

“To support the broader community, we are pleased to be joining Epcor and Sureway Construction Group in jointly funding a $30,000 donation to the Edmonton Public School Board’s Amiskwaciy Academy,” read the Twitter statement.

Epcor issued its own statement Tuesday thanking the students and staff at Edith Rodgers for bringing the workers’ actions to them.

“Epcor took immediate action to shut down the construction site until an investigation could be completed, and we have been in communication with school officials, witnesses, the contractor for the site, and the sub-contractor,” said the statement.

Edmonton Public Schools previously said the smudging ceremony was part of its efforts to teach students about reconciliation with Indigenous people. Smudging is a type of ceremony practised by certain Indigenous cultures. It typically involves the burning of sweetgrass, sage, tobacco or cedar, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia.

In a statement over the weekend the board called the incident “deeply unsettling and unacceptable for our staff and students who were participating in the smudging ceremony.”

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— With files from Jonny Wakefield

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