London, Ont., principal removed for wearing Black student's hair like a wig says he's sorry, 'ashamed'

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A school board in London, Ont., removed Luc Chartrand as principal of École secondaire catholique Monseigneur-Bruyère on Friday, and he's since issued an apology amid allegations of racism. (Andrew Lupton/CBC - image credit)
A school board in London, Ont., removed Luc Chartrand as principal of École secondaire catholique Monseigneur-Bruyère on Friday, and he's since issued an apology amid allegations of racism. (Andrew Lupton/CBC - image credit)

The London, Ont., principal removed from his job for wearing a Black student's hair as part of a Halloween costume has issued an apology, saying his behaviour was unacceptable and showed "a great lack of judgment."

Luc Chartrand was principal of Monseigneur-Bruyère, a French-language Catholic high school, when he wore a student's cut dreadlocks as a wig in two separate incidents in 2019.

In his statement emailed to CBC News, Chartrand said wearing the hair as if it were his own was "totally not acceptable."

"I would like to sincerely apologize for the incidents and for my personal behaviour in the events which have led to all this turmoil, surrounding racist allegations, at École secondaire catholique Monseigneur-Bruyère," he wrote.

One of the incidents was at a school gym rally in support of a student battling cancer. Students were shaving their heads and after one's dreadlocks were shorn off, Chartrand put the hair on his head and began clowning around for the crowd. The incident is captured in a four-second clip online, and CBC News spoke to a student who was at the event and confirmed it happened.

Students also said in interviews that Chartrand then wore the wig a second time six months later as part of a Halloween costume.

Letter demanding changes ignored: councillor

In his statement, Chartrand also said: "I strongly regret and am ashamed of what I have done. I realize that I could have and should have celebrated this student's accomplishments and success in a different manner. I want to offer my most sincere apologies to the student and to his family, to all Black students and parents of the school, to the entire school community and also to the entire BIPOC community."

A still image shared Friday on Black Lives Matter London's Instagram page shows high school principal Luc Chartrand wearing hair recently shorn from a student as a wig.
A still image shared Friday on Black Lives Matter London's Instagram page shows high school principal Luc Chartrand wearing hair recently shorn from a student as a wig. (Black Lives Matter London/Instagram)

An image of Chartrand wearing the hair was posted Friday evening on the Instagram account of Black Lives Matter London. A short clip of Chartrand wearing the hair in the gym was posted later. The images and video were sent to the group by students at the school.

Conseil Scolaire Catholique announced Saturday that Chartrand would be removed from his position.

A former student who spoke to CBC News on condition that she remain anonymous said by putting on the hair, Chartrand appeared to be assuming the identity of the Black student. She said the act smacks of cultural appropriation and poor judgment for a person in authority at the school.

Coun. Arielle Kayabaga attended the school in her teens, but left before graduating due to what she called a climate of racism at the school.

Kayabaga also said the school should have reacted proactively once administrators became aware of Chartand's actions.

Images of Chartrand wearing the hair were widely viewed when the event first happened in 2019, students said. A letter sent to administrators demanding changes at the school was ignored, Kayabaga said.

"The students had to resort to social media to address an issue that happened two years ago," she said. "Last year, they submitted a letter and no action was taken. I'm very concerned about the students who go to that school and the safety of those students."

In the statement announcing Chartrand's removal as principal, school board director Joseph Picard said the board is taking steps to improve diversity and inclusion at the school.