Dozens of current and graduate students demonstrated on Friday afternoon in front of Henri-Bourassa high school, in Montreal-North, demanding concrete measures to fight racism in the education community in Quebec.
“We are here to denounce, but above all to demand real changes”, loose Gio Olmos, former student of Vincent Ouellette. The now suspended history teacher has come under heavy criticism for a week for shamelessly bashing non-white students for at least a decade.
Now graduated, Gio Olmos suggests several solutions to “tackle systemic racism” in schools. “It takes neutral complaint mechanisms, adequate psychosocial support for students, training for teachers, in short, opportunities for discussion on minorities,” she says. Cathy Ramirez, she has witnessed several racist comments from Vincent Ouellette over the years.
It must stop. Today we support the students of our school, but the intention is to open a much broader debate. Many other institutions are concerned.
Cathy Ramirez, graduate student of Henri-Bourassa
In a video posted Wednesday on the page Facebook Aries united, several other students said they felt provoked, ridiculed or attacked by the teacher. “We had the course on Charlie hebdo and he was asking Muslim students to apologize, ”one student testified. “He called us terrorists, told us it was our fault,” said another.
Linda Laimeche, who also attended Vincent Ouellette’s classes, salutes the courage of the victims to speak out. “We care about this school. If we speak now, it is also because we want to bring about change in an establishment that we really appreciate, ”she argues. For Hiba Jabouirik, another student of the teacher, denying the presence of systemic racism in schools will have serious consequences. “What we have experienced is a pawn in a large chessboard. Without recognizing it, we legitimize the actions of teachers like ours. We make them feel supported, ”she says.
Just a bit of “wanting politics”
Co-organizer of the rally, anti-racist activist Wiel Prosper agrees. “We have never really looked at what is happening in terms of racism in education in Quebec. Too many students are left to their own devices, ”he says.
It just takes a bit of wanting politics. We cannot continue to close our eyes. We are destroying lives, we are destroying the future of our young people.
Wiel Prosper, anti-racist activist
Comedian Eddy King spoke at the protest, saying he understands the discrimination young people experience. “I lived it too, and I remember that it ruined my secondary 5. Today, I laughed about it, I remade myself, but I know how much it can mark”, has t -he throws.
Paule Robitaille, the member for Bourassa-Sauvé, is worried that there is a “lack of knowledge of the remedies to be taken”. “The population of Montreal-North schools is perhaps less well equipped to make formal complaints. Many are immigrants who do not know how the school system works. They don’t always know what their rights are, ”she says.
The CSSPI says it has “heard” the students
Joined by The Press, the management of the Center de services de la Pointe-de-l’Île (CSSPI) “would like to tell the current and former students of Henri-Bourassa that it has heard them”. “In addition to the ongoing investigation, it was decided to immediately begin updating the code of ethics applicable to all staff and to ensure its application,” said spokesperson Valérie Biron.
Antoine El-Khoury, the director of the organization, reiterates that “by their unique position, teachers and other members of the school team have a great impact on the students, their well-being and their development”. “This is a huge responsibility, which all of our employees need to take very seriously,” he says.
Finally, the CSSPI indicates that it will ensure that “the complaint process, which has several levels, is well known” by all, via its website.