High school teacher who used racial slur suspended after students allege history of racist behaviour
MONTREAL -- When a Montreal high-school teacher was recorded using a racial slur in class, multiple times, he said it was for educational purposes, in a context that was "purely historical."
But several former students of Henri-Bourassa High School in Montreal North are having none of that explanation.
In a YouTube video posted this week, the former students claim this was far from teacher Vincent Ouellette’s first time using offensive language in class, directing it at several ethnic or religious groups.
“After the Charlie Hebdo situation, the teacher targeted some Muslim students in the class and asked them to apologize for the events that happened in France,” one young woman, Hiba, alleged in an interview with CTV News.
He did Nazi salutes in class every time he talked about Hitler, she said.
“It was very traumatizing, because at a young age you just had to develop this sort of reflex to just tune out in class,” said Hiba, who graduated from the school in 2016 and wanted to be identified only by her first name.
Ouellette has been suspended while pending an investigation, the school board said in a statement late Wednesday.
The videos that were posted about Ouellette last week, mostly on Snapchat, were sparked by students hearing about the controversy at the University of Ottawa, where a professor used a word disparaging to Black people during a class lesson about pejorative terms.
One Montreal student who uploaded a video said she reacted right away to Ouellette’s behaviour, feeling it was wrong regardless of the context.
“I was really shocked,” said Marlyne Desir. “I was also feeling feelings of disgust. I was angry.”
But that video started a domino effect on social media among Henri-Bourassa students.
Hiba said she did complain about Ouellette to school administrators.
“We’re not heard,” she told CTV News. “As immigrants, people of colour, we’re not heard if we go through the normal routes, if I can call it that way.”
Ouellette didn’t respond to a CTV News request for comment.
The school board said in a statement Wednesday that “we are taking the situation very seriously,” but that they weren’t authorized to reveal the employee’s file or any potential sanctions against him.
Later that night, they updated that information to say Ouellette had been suspended while human resources investigates the students' "testimonials," among other things.
"The teacher in question is currently suspended for investigation," they confirmed.
“Inclusion, equity and benevolence are at the heart of our educational mission and no form of discrimination can be tolerated in our establishments," said Antoine El-Khoury, managing director of the Pointe-de-l'Île Service Centre, the new version of a school board.
"I would like to assure the students, current and graduates, as well as members of the Montreal-North community, that we are taking charge of this file and that the appropriate measures will be taken following the current administrative investigation."