Letter from Director/Principal Re: Jean Vanier

Letter from Director/Principal Re: Jean Vanier
Posted on 02/24/2020

February 23, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians:

You may have already heard about some very disturbing news that was released yesterday regarding Jean Vanier, much beloved Canadian humanitarian, founder of L’Arche and our school’s namesake.

Through an internal investigation conducted by L’Arche International in France it has been revealed that Jean Vanier sexually assaulted at least six women over the course of several decades. Although he passed away last May, L’Arche proceeded with an investigation in response to suspicions and allegations levelled against Jean Vanier’s behaviour while involved with their organization. The findings of this investigation are both shocking and tragic. 

It is with great sadness that I share this link to the Globe and Mail article, which was released this morning. The details here will provide you with more context around the troubling nature of Jean Vanier’s actions and the impact this will have on our community and beyond. I am also providing a link to the statement on L’Arche International's website.

We are praying for the women who were betrayed and victimized by Jean Vanier’s actions. We honour their courage and thank them for standing up and speaking out. We also pray for the staff and students in our school community who actively and publicly celebrated Jean Vanier in his life and in his death. We were proud of our namesake and openly admired him for his work as a humanitarian and especially for his work with L’Arche. All of this has now seriously come into question. 

We are resolute in our stance that sexual assault and sexual harrassment are destructive and wrong, regardless of when the incident happened or who was involved. We must fight against intolerance, injustice, and abuse wherever we find it. 

As a result of Jean Vanier’s reprehensible actions, our community finds itself in a troubling and difficult situation. As a community, we have legitimate concerns, discomfort and perhaps a sense of shame about having a namesake who was involved in the sexual assault and exploitation of several women. There are so many things we will now need to consider as we move forward as a school community, not the least of which is our school’s name. 

Our Board has a policy, which specifically outlines the criteria for school naming. That policy involves community consultation and approval from the Board of Trustees. In light of what we now know about Jean Vanier, we are committed to working with the staff, students and parents in our community to review how we should best move forward with the name of our Catholic high school in Collingwood. 

In the meantime, we know that there may be some concerns regarding our school uniform, which bears Jean Vanier’s name. As a show of compassion and respect for those students who may be struggling, we have decided to make this week a “Civies Week” until we can sort out options for dress code on a go-forward basis. The usual civies dress code rules will apply this week, which includes the option for students to wear their uniform or parts of the uniform should they choose.

There is no doubt that we have difficult days and weeks ahead. We will be addressing this issue with the students tomorrow and we will have support and counsel available for those who are upset by this disturbing news. We will work together as a community to forge a path forward. 

Yours in Faith,

Brian Beal John Collingbourne
Director Education Principal