'Action has been taken' at Montreal school after teacher filmed repeatedly using racial slur
MONTREAL -- The service centre that oversees a high school in Montreal North says it is taking action after a series of videos of a teacher repeatedly using a racial slur in an online class appeared on social media.
The videos were posted just days after a debate began across Quebec in response to a University of Ottawa professor being suspended over her use of the N-word in class.
The professor was teaching derogatory terms that have been reclaimed by minority communities when she used it.
Several professors from the University of Ottawa and beyond defended the teacher, citing both freedom of education and freedom of expression, and highlighting a necessity to be able to teach history, even the parts that are difficult.
“The management of Henri-Bourassa High School and the CSSPI are well aware of the matter,” Valerie Biron, the director of communications at the Centre de services scolaire de la Pointe-de-l’Ile said in an email to CTV News on Thursday.
“We are taking the situation seriously and action has been taken to shed light on these events, which are occurring in a particularly delicate context.”
The videos were taken on Snapchat by students in Vincent Ouellette’s Secondary 4 history class. In them, he is heard talking about the use of the N-word in response to the University of Ottawa teacher's suspension.
“I’m comfortable with what I’m doing…,” he said, between repeated mentions of the word in both English and French. “And I know that in my class I have no desire to harm.”
“For Jews, should we stop ourselves from talking about concentration camps… because it was hard for them? On the contrary, we must talk about them,” he added.
The videos were posted on Instagram by Marlyne Desir, whose little sister went to the school and still knows people who attend. They have gained a lot of traction in the short time they’ve been online, Desir said.
Outside of the fact that teachers who want to teach the history of the word could simply replace it with “the N-word,” Desir pointed out that there are better options – like hiring a Black person to teach it instead, or to point students towards resources created by Black people.
“Why not hear it from a Black voice?” she said. “Why not give your students a text, an essay, a newspaper article written by a Black person on the topic explaining everything that they would have said anyway?”
Desir pointed out that anyone who is teaching the history of racism has likely studied it, and should therefore understand the harm the word causes.
“If they’ve heard Black voices saying this repeatedly and they’re deciding to ignore and silence Black voices, you’re not an ally,” she said. “What are you teaching?”
In the video, Ouellette claims that there’s nothing wrong with saying the word “in a context that is purely historical.”
“To me, there is no difference – because at the end of the day, it’s not necessary,” Desir said. “Black people have reclaimed this word for themselves, not for other people to use it.”
In response to the conversation that has started across Quebec – on whether or not it’s appropriate for non-Black people to use the term in an educational context – Desir said it simply isn't a debate.
“I just hope there’s change, and I hope the message is very clear for everyone in Quebec: whether in French or English, if you’re not Black, don’t say the word," she said.
"It is not a debate; it is not a question. Black people do not want you using it. There’s good chances that they will think you are racist, no matter the context."
The school's service centre declined to provide CTV News with an interview, but added in its statement that "Inclusion, equity and benevolence are at the heart of the CSSPI's educational mission and no form of discrimination can be tolerated in our establishments."