Posted on Jun 1, 2021


EDMONTON - An Alberta family is calling on Education Minister Adriana LaGrange to remove mentions of their relative from her failed curriculum, and say the UCP has tokenized her name and legacy.


In late April, Julianne Sévère learned that her grandmother, Agnes Leffler Perry Chaney, was mentioned in the UCP’s draft curriculum, and that LaGrange was using her name on social media to promote the draft.


“In Minister Lagrange’s social media posts promoting the curriculum, she stated that my grandmother was being included, along with other famous black Albertans. This came as a shock to me as she was neither famous nor a public figure, and she did not want to be. No one in my family was consulted about this,” said Sévère, who wrote to LaGrange asking her to stop using her grandmother’s name.


The email was ignored until NDP MLAs Sarah Hoffman and David Shepherd wrote an open letter to LaGrange urging her to respond.


“To be frank, the response I received was condescending,” said Sévère. “I did not appreciate being ‘told’ who my grandmother was and that adding her to the deeply flawed curriculum would be honouring her legacy. I am her legacy, I am her family.” 


LaGrange argued that she had a right to use Agnes Chaney’s name because she wrote a short contribution to The Window of our Memories, a book dedicated to Black settlers and history researched and written by Sévère’s great aunt Velma Carter and godmother Wanda Akili. The book is briefly quoted on a federal government website, with Carter’s explicit permission. 


“Comparing a short missive told to her sister for a book completely dedicated to Black history for the community is not the same as being used to prop up a curriculum that has been deeply problematic and accused of whitewashing history,” said Sévère.


“The irony? My grandmother was a teacher. And I know that she would have been among the over 90 per cent of the 3500 teachers surveyed who do not support this curriculum draft.”


Sévère’s call for her grandmother to be removed from the curriculum follows widespread condemnation of LaGrange’s draft from teachers, parents, school districts, First Nations and Metis groups, Francophones, and the Black Teachers Association of Alberta.


“Albertans from all backgrounds are outraged by this unacceptable curriculum,” said Hoffman. “But for Ms. Sévère and her family, this is deeply personal. I’m disgusted at the condescending response she received from Adriana LaGrange. It’s time for the UCP to finally start listening and scrap this curriculum.”


“Finding a name on a website, then essentially saying ‘there we added black people!’ is The definition of tokenism and is definitely not the way to increase representation nor to address any aspect of systemic racism,” Sévère said. “My message to Minister LaGrange and the UCP government is this: remove my grandmother from your draft curriculum. It is a draft; you added her without my knowledge or consultation. Consider this my consultation: I am her only living descendent. You do not have my consent to use her name or her story.

“Your lack of consultation and dismissal of my concerns show a continued lack of respect for Alberta ‘s racialized communities. Minister LaGrange, you and your party must do better.”