The Gaslighters’ Dilemma

The school principal maintains that she did nothing wrong.

Ms Anyanwu, the principal, denies that she brought six children into the office and demanded they remove their keffiyehs.  

She denies that she grabbed one girl’s cell phone – the girl was probably trying to text her parents.

The Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE) says the principal did nothing wrong and that this was all a misunderstanding.

But how could it have been? And who exactly misunderstood?

Last week, Park West School in Halifax, held its Culture Day.  It was a day that students wore clothing or symbols to display their ethnic heritage.

Park West is likely the most diverse – or multicultural – school in Nova Scotia.    It has more than 400 students from Primary to Grade 9.  There are dozens of students from Palestinian backgrounds at Park West.

Photo of young students and supporters at Park West School, Halifax Mar. 7, 2023. Photo credit: Violet Rosengarten

A parent, possibly a mother, complained to the principal that the keffiyeh scarf worn by Palestinian children were the “colours of war”.  Almost immediately the children wearing the keffiyeh were told to remove it or go to the principal’s office.  Once there, the students were threatened with suspension if they didn’t remove the scarf.  Terrified, the children took off their scarves. 

You have to understand that the parent who made the complaint has never come forward.  This is a typical tactic of someone from the white entitled class: they can accuse the young students of wearing symbols of war (which the keffiyeh is not);  they can offend a whole ethnic group of young children; they can cajole and even threaten – and somehow the principal bends to the one parent’s bullying.  And the principal identifies with that bullying parent. How can one parent’s complaint result in collective punishment against children of one ethnic group in a Nova Scotia public school?

Rally for Palestinian students and families, in front of NS Dept of Education, on Brunswick St in Halifax on Mar. 6, 2023. Independent Jewish Voices Canada, the Halifax chapter, joined the protest (Photo by Judy Haiven)

Let’s not kid ourselves.  Who would have complained?  Only someone who wanted to make Palestinians scarce, or to ethnically cleanse Palestinian kids from the school.  Because that is the effect isn’t it? Who would that be?   Clearly someone who hates Palestine because that parent supports Israel – supports the Israeli government and its brutal, illegal occupation of Palestine for more than 50 years.  That parent supports Israel which has killed more than 77 Palestinians including 13 children since January 1, 2023—more than one murder a day.  

No one at the Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE) has seriously apologized for demeaning and harassing the children who merely wore keffiyehs to multicultural day.  No one at the HRCE will even admit to threatening the children.  There’s nothing new there. Since NS Liberal Premier McNeil liquidated all the school boards (and the health boards) in the province more than a decade ago in order to concentrate power in the hands of himself and his cabinet, there are no school boards and no elected trustees.  Without elected trustees, there is no simple way to make a complaint or a change in what’s going on in the schools. This too is a form of bullying.  Just like Park West’s principal, the government continues to bully the parents and electors.  Before we get too nasty about the current Tory government, neither opposition party has promised to restore school boards and school trustees. Actually, the Tories promised to bring back elected school boards in the last election, but backed away from that promise once elected.

The word is, events in the principal’s office were  merely a “misunderstanding.” 


No one complained about children who wore turbans, or skull caps, or crosses around their necks, or jingle dresses, or Mi’kmaq outfits, or saris.  Any other child who wore ethnic costume or who brought an object or keepsake from their culture was no doubt welcome. 

How would  Jewish students have been treated, or not treated, in similar circumstances? Just a few days ago, Jewish Israeli settlers on the West Bank went on a rampage in the Palestinian village of Huwara, killing and injuring people, and torching dozens of homes. As religious Jews, most of those settlers were no doubt wearing the yarmulke (skullcap) while they committed the atrocities. Israeli cabinet minister Bezalel Smotrich, who wears a yarmulke, said the village ‘needs to be wiped out.’ So will we now ban the wearing of yarmulkes in Halifax schools? I don’t think so. That would be labeled antisemitism.

Israel’s government prepares package of sanctions against Palestinians. Cartoon by Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor

Just not the children of Palestinian descent.  That’s what the world knows as ethnic cleansing. Ethnic cleansing means not only driving people out of their homes or making them flee to other countries.  It also means attempting to erase their identity and their national pride and demeaning of their national symbols.

Featured Image: Rally in support of Palestinian students and families at Park West School, Clayton Park, Halifax on Mar. 7, 2023. Photo taken by Violet Rosengarten, a visual artist based in Dartmouth, NS.


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