British Columbia·In Depth

'My words lost control': Vancouver teen apologizes for hurt caused by racist video

A 16-year-old boy who recorded a video full of hateful and racist statements aimed at blacks claims to be ashamed of both his words and the impact they've had on a Vancouver secondary school.

Boy's family claims to have asked for school or school board to circulate apology

Suzanne Daley (left) and Rita Baboth say their daughters left Lord Byng in the wake of a racist video posted by a fellow student. (Harman/CBC)

The 16-year-old boy at the centre of a controversy over a racist video that has roiled a Vancouver high school claims to be ashamed of both his words and their resulting impact.

In a statement provided to the CBC, the teenager — who recorded a video last November in which he says 'I hope all n------ die" — says he "used racist and hateful words against the black community for no other reason than to shock a few friends."

Instead, the video made its way online and into circulation at Lord Byng Secondary — ultimately causing two black girls to switch schools in recent weeks for fear that the boy was going to be allowed back.

"My words lost control and quickly were shared on social media in a way I had never wanted and I lost my chance to take them back and erase my horrible mistake. Worse, I used words that caused real pain and fear to people who did not deserve to ever hear them," the boy wrote.

"I am ashamed of what I have done. I am sorry for what I did, and everything that has happened since."

'We humbly ask for your forgiveness'

The boy's family reached out to CBC this week in an attempt to calm fears they believe have been fuelled by rumour and the inability of the Vancouver School Board to comment publicly without divulging the private details of a student.

The situation culminated in a meeting between the mothers of the two girls, school officials, Vancouver police and representatives from the ministry of education and the B.C. Human Rights Commission.

The incident occurred at Lord Byng Secondary School on Vancouver's west side. It happened in November but the ramifications are still being felt. (Vancouver School Board)

But in fact, by that time, the boy's family says the school board had actually reversed a decision to allow the teenager to return to Lord Byng

But they were unable to tell anyone.

The teen's parents also provided a letter of apology they claim to have written the community three days after the video surfaced — expressing shock as to how he could have said something so "hateful, dangerous and stupid."

They say they asked "the school and/or the VSB to share it with anyone and everyone that had concerns and deserved to hear from them" but claim the it was never shared "despite repeated requests."

"We have struggled with what to say in response to this abhorrent behaviour. We aren't sure any parent ever knows exactly the right thing to say when one of their children is the source of such a terrible thing," the letter reads.

"We humbly ask for your forgiveness for our son at this difficult time. We know our son is a better human being than this ... we apologize for the hurt our son has caused."

'Why wouldn't they ask us?'

As a rule, the VSB will not comment on the details of individual students because of privacy reasons.

The parents also reached out this week to Suzanne Daley, the mother of one of the girls who switched schools for fear of having to share space with the boy if he returned to Lord Byng.

The parents of the teen who made the racist video claim they asked the school or the school board to circulate an apology. But that never happened. (Tristan Le Rudulier/CBC)

Daley says a lack of transparency has compounded the problem from the start.

She says she and Rita Baboth, the mother of the other girl, had hoped for an assembly at which the actions of the boy were denounced in no uncertain terms.

"I get protecting kids because they're minors," she says.

"But when the kid who's a minor's parent is saying it's okay — the school board allegedly told them you can't reach out to the other families. Rita and I are going 'No, why wouldn't they ask us?'"

According to the boy, the video was recorded "in a stupid moment intended to make bad jokes between classmates." His family says the boy did not share the video directly on social media, but one of his friends did.

The family claim the teenager was ultimately suspended for five weeks before returning to a different school.

"The student has made multiple requests through the school/VSB if he could directly apologize to the affected students, their families and his entire high school," the family claims.

"On every occasion he was denied or advised not to for unspecified reasons."

'How do we get better?'

The teenager claims to have also been doing volunteer work and to be taking counselling as part of a "restorative action" plan developed with his parents and the school board.

Next month, he's travelling to Arizona to meet with Andre Norman, an African-American activist who has turned his experience as a former prisoner into a mission to help people make positive change.

Norman told the CBC he's already had a few conversations with the teen.

"When the young man reached out, he owned what he did. He said what he did and he acknowledged what he did, and he's trying to find a path to get better and to find a way to make it better," Norman says.

"He's a good kid. He definitely bumped his head. What he did is obvious, but he's a good kid and he's trying to make it better."

Norman says he's worked with prisoners in some of the toughest jails in the United States, as well as with people in the middle of some of the most tense racial conflicts in the U.S.. 

"My thing is how do we get to a solution. It's done, he can't undo it," Norman says.

"At some point, you have to say okay, this has happened, there's some people right, there's some people wrong. How do we get better?"

About the Author

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.