VICTORIA -- The B.C. Supreme Court has ruled that an Indigenous smudging ceremony performed in a Port Alberni classroom in 2015 does not constitute a violation of religious rights for non-Indigenous students.

The controversy began in September 2015 at John Howitt Elementary School after a student's parent claimed their child was unable to leave the classroom when the ceremony was taking place, which infringed on their religious neutrality. 

Last November, a local Indigenous leader told CTV News Vancouver island that the ceremony was simply a demonstration, and not a religious ritual. 

"They were smudging a wall and a chair, and it was to show the students this is how a Nuu-chah-nulth person would smudge themselves," Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council (NTC) president Judith Sayers told CTV News.

"There were no prayers to go with it. It was just a demonstration," said Sayers.

On Wednesday, the NTC issued a statement saying that the court ruled that the petitioner failed to adequately establish that there was an infringement of religious freedoms. 

The NTC says that the smudging ceremony is a cultural practice and not a religious one.

"The NTC advocates for education for cultural inclusiveness in schools because all young people have to be taught about cultural differences," said Sayers.

"This is a crucial part of reconciliation and changing the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. People cannot honour differences if they cannot understand it," said Sayers.

In November, before the ruling was decided, the petitioner, Candice Servatius, said that government should not force citizens to participate in ceremonies that they do not believe in. Servatius said that her daughter was unable to leave the classroom as the teacher said it would be rude.

"We believe that the government cannot compel citizens to participate in supernatural or religious ceremonies," Servatius's lawyer told CTV News in November. "That's the law."

The NTC ended their news release by saying that the entire process was difficult to endure, and was reminiscent of what happened in Canadian residential schools. 

"This was an incredibly difficult case to go through and the court agrees that some of the petitioner’s arguments were insensitive and regrettable hyperbole especially considering the magnitude of what occurred in the residential school," said Sayers. 

"It was tough for all concerned to sit through this hearing and listen to assertions about Nuu-chah-nulth culture and hope that it never happens again."