'Troubling hate speech': Montreal private school condemns video showing students wearing costume spelling out N-word
MONTREAL -- A Montreal private school is condemning a video that resurfaced on social media this week showing some of its students wearing a group costume spelling out the N-word.
The video shows six male students from College Sainte-Anne - a private school in Lachine, a western borough of Montreal - standing side by side and wearing t-shirts that spell out the anti-Black slur. (CTV News has blurred the faces of the minors in the video above, as well as the slur itself).
Originally shot and posted on social media at Halloween, the video was taken down quickly. But this week, some students and parents, who say they wanted to draw attention to the Black Lives Matter movement and shine a spotlight on often ignored incidents of racism that they say occur at the school, began reposting it.
“The main reason people are posting about it isn’t to expose them or harass them or ruin their lives,” said graduating student Chanelle Vandeville. “It’s more because this type of stuff has been going on for a while, and a lot of people just laugh or brush it to the side.”
Vandeville said she knows some of the boys in the video and never felt them to be racist, but that they were just trying to get a reaction or be funny.
“I was very shocked because I wouldn’t expect it from those people,” she said. “I don’t think that they are racist. I think this stuff happens because they think they’re funny or they want attention.”
Vandeville is one of two girls of colour in her graduating class, and said there are around a half-dozen boys who are Black or bi-racial in her class.
She said she has not noticed a huge amount of racism at the school, but that racist joking does happen.
The school released a statement Friday afternoon addressing the video.
“Last night, we were made aware of a video on social media of hateful nature from a few College Sainte-Anne students,” the statement reads. “We strongly condemn these kind of behaviour and we will respond publicly as well as alert the authorities concerning this troubling hate speech.”
Fo Niemi, of the the Montreal-based Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, said action is more important than statements.
“Statements are good, but it’s better to know what the school is going to do concretely to address, sanction and prevent this kind of racist conduct,” said Niemi. “Too often, the only action is either a statement of denial or a one-page statement of regret and nothing else happens.”
Sainte-Anne said it strives to foster an environment of diversity and respect.
“Our College fosters a humane and open view of the world and is a place where diversity of expression and cultural curiosity is valued both within our community. We will continue our education work with our Sainte-Anne family,” the school’s statement read.
Vandeville said the six boys (who have deleted their social media accounts) have been met with death threats and hateful messages since the video began recirculating. When they originally posted it, she said they quickly took off their T-shirts and denied doing it.
She does not condone the death threats, but hopes those in the video and others will learn that it is unacceptable to do these types of things even if it is in jest.
“I think people are posting to say that this type of stuff won’t be accepted anymore,” she said. “I think this is an opportunity for them to grow and mature and take accountability for their actions and take responsibility and accept the consequences… The main reason we’re doing this is not to bully them. It’s to raise awareness of what’s happening, what’s been going around and that it’s not going to be accepted anymore.”