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Montreal school's Aboriginal headdresses shock mother
Jennifer Dorner said she found the scene in the Montreal schoolyard distressing and offensive.

A Quebec mother says she was shocked that two Grade 3 teachers were wearing aboriginal headdresses and handing them out to students on the first day of classes Monday.

Jennifer Dorner said she found the scene in the Montreal schoolyard distressing and offensive and posted a photo and commentary on Facebook, where it began making the rounds.

“I was pretty horrified, I was hoping that this kind of thing stopped happening a long time ago, but apparently it continues so I took a picture and posted about it,” she said in an interview.

Dorner, whose daughter and niece are both Grade 3 students, said her niece Zoe was particularly upset by the headdress and wanted to rip it up.

School board spokeswoman Gina Guillemette says the headdresses — fashioned from cardboard and coloured feathers — were distributed to students at Ecole Lajoie as part of a focus on teaching about native communities in Quebec.

Dorner said that explanation is even more upsetting given the very people introducing the topic don’t seem to grasp the disrespect of portraying the headdress in this way.

“How can they possibly be teaching an authentic understanding of indigenous culture?,” she asked. “It doesn’t help their cause to say that. If anything, it makes it even more distressing.”

Such headdresses are generally only worn by elders or those who’ve earned the right to do so.

Non-natives donning them is seen as disrespectful as there is a spiritual and cultural significance attached to them.

Many concert promoters and sporting venues have banned the wearing of such First Nations headdresses as a costume or fashion accessory.

Dorner said a friend who is native has offered to attend a meeting she’s requested with the principal at the elementary school in Montreal’s Outremont borough.

Zoe’s mother, Sarah Dorner, said her daughter refused to wear the headdress.

“My daughter is very sensitive to these things, we lived in New Zealand for most of 2015 so we’ve had a lot of conversations with her about when it’s OK to be invited and to wear a costume or participate in song and dance,” she said, referring to Maori culture in New Zealand.

Sarah Dorner said she just wanted her daughter to enjoy her first day of school.

Some of the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission focus on education and she said the need to implement them is clear.

“I’m hoping that maybe, because this has hit a nerve, they’ll consider more appropriate ways of introducing that curriculum,” she said.

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National Energy Board cancels first day of Energy East hearings after protests
The federal regulatory body will try to resume proceedings Tuesday after protests against TransCanada's pipeline project

Protesters chanting anti-pipeline slogans forced the cancellation Monday of the first day of hearings in Montreal into TransCanada’s Energy East project.

The head of the hearings for the National Energy Board said the federal regulatory body will try to resume proceedings Tuesday.

“TransCanada will not pass,” screamed one protester as police dragged him away from a downtown conference room.

Police made three arrests. Two men aged 35 and 44 were charged with assaulting a police officer and with obstruction of justice, while a 29-year-old woman was charged with obstruction of justice.

The 35-year-old man remained detained as of early Monday afternoon, while the two others were released.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, along with the mayor of nearby Laval and other municipal representatives, walked out of the hearings not long after the demonstrators charged in.

Coderre was the first person scheduled to give testimony Monday but chose instead to leave, calling the protests a “masquerade.”

He and many provincial politicians and First Nations groups oppose TransCanada’s project to transport crude oil from Alberta to New Brunswick.

“There are too many problems we are witnessing to accept the project,” Coderre told reporters after he decided to leave Monday’s hearings.

“We’re saying the project (TransCanada) presented is wrong, it’s bad and we don’t have the answers. And frankly one of the main issues is contingency plans, everything regarding safety.”

Coderre asked last week for the hearings to be suspended after media reports revealed that two of the three NEB commissioners overseeing the review process met former Quebec premier Jean Charest, who was at the time a lobbyist for TransCanada (TSX:TRP).

He said he wasn’t calling for the commissioners to resign, but that there was a perception of bias.

Nonetheless, Coderre said it was important for him to give testimony in order for the NEB and the rest of the country to appreciate the concerns of local citizens.

One of the anti-pipeline protesters, Kristian Gareau, entered the room and started chanting and clapping with the other protesters.

He said the entire NEB process is illegitimate because two of the commissioners had met with Charest.

“There is a perception of bias,” said Gareau, 36. “These two commissioners are part of this democratic institution, which has the sweeping power of a federal court.

“So a judge cannot go and meet with people in a back room. It just shows this smug elite privilege which is completely unacceptable.”

The hearings are set for this week in Montreal before moving to Quebec City the week of Oct. 3.