09/19/2013 10:22 EDT | Updated 11/19/2013 05:12 EST

Pipe Ceremony At University Of Saskatchewan Excludes Menstruating Women, Sparks Controversy


SASKATOON - A controversy has erupted at the University of Saskatchewan over a traditional aboriginal pipe ceremony for which organizers asked women "on their moon time" not to attend.

Kevin Flynn, an assistant professor of English, has written an op-ed piece in On Campus News accusing the organizers of excluding and repressing women.

Flynn says instructions in an email sent about the ceremony suggested women who are menstruating might render sacred objects in the ceremony "filthy."

Flynn says he supports the inclusion and advancement of aboriginal students at the university, but cannot support activities that marginalize any group.

Some members of the aboriginal community say Flynn doesn't understand the tradition behind the ceremony, which is that women are most powerful when they're menstruating and that could interfere with the ceremony.

Joan Greyeyes, the university's special advisor on aboriginal initiatives, says the university values freedom of speech "even when that speech reflects a perspective that conflicts with institutional values."

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