Filipino-Canadian Boy Scolded for Eating with a Spoon Wins Damages

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MANILA--A human rights body in Canada has awarded $17,000 (Canadian)to a Filipino-Canadian boy who was scolded by his teacher for using a spoon to eat his lunch--instead of just a fork--in the school cafeteria.

Canadian media reports reaching the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Manila said the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal ruled that Luc Joachim Cagadoc, represented by his mother Maria Theresa Gallardo-Cagadoc, was a victim of “racial and ethnic discrimination.”

The DFA Sunday confirmed the reports on the decision favoring the Cagadocs and said it was waiting for an official report from the Philippine Embassy in Canada. When the news of the incident first broke, the department instructed the embassy to help the Cagadocs pursue the case.

The boy’s mother initially filed the complaint before the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission against the Ecole Lalande in the Montreal borough of Pierrefonds-Roxboro in April 2006. She said that her son, Luc Joachim, then 7 years old, told her that he was scolded by Martine Bertrand, a teacher supervising the student’s lunch, for also using a spoon—instead of a fork only—when eating.

When told by the boy that Filipinos eat that way—that is, with spoon and fork—Bertrand purportedly said it was “disgusting” and then asked him if people in the Philippines also wash their hands before eating. Bertrand then ordered the boy to eat alone in a corner.

Normand Bergeron, the school principal, backed the teacher when confronted by Cagadoc. “You are in Canada, and here in Canada, you should eat the way Canadians eat. If your son keeps eating like a pig, then he will go to another table because that is how we do it here,” Cagadoc said she was told by Bergeron, according to her complaint.

Cagadoc said she found Bergeron’s statements “racially insensitive and discriminatory towards me and my family.” The commission, however, dismissed the case in October 2008, saying the incident was isolated and not discriminatory.

With the help of a nongovernmental organization, the Center for Research Action on Race Relations, Cagadoc filed a new complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal in March 2009.

“Hopefully, it’s all over and we can move on,” Cagadoc was quoted by the Montreal Gazette as saying. “Of course, we’re happy with the ruling, but we just hope the school board won’t appeal.”