Edmonton

Syrian, Canadian students put best foot forward after altercation at Red Deer high school

As an anti-immigration protest outside a Red Deer, Alta., high school wrapped up Tuesday, RCMP Const. Derek Turner looked over to see a friendly soccer match underway in the schoolyard.

'I think we've got a lot to learn from our kids," says RCMP officer

As an anti-immigration protest outside a Red Deer, Alta., high school wrapped up Tuesday, RCMP Const. Derek Turner looked over to see a friendly soccer match underway in the schoolyard.

The Syrian and Canadian players, integrated as a community, were apparently unaffected by race.

Turner and his partner went over to play goaltender for either team.

"I thought that was a really good show of support for the school and for the kids," he said Tuesday.

More than 40 people were outside Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School in response to a fight involving Syrian and Canadian students.

A video of the fight was posted to social media this past week, and rumours swirled about whether the Canadian children involved were treated unfairly as compared to the Syrians.

Officials from Lindsay Thurber posted a statement Friday, refuting claims that the Syrian students were spared any discipline.

Students heading to school Tuesday fresh off the Victoria Day long weekend were greeted by the protesters. One Canadian-born Grade 11 student, Ursella Khan, felt the need to address them.

Principal Dan Lower, student Ursella Khan and RCMP Const. Derek Turner, left to right, see signs of integration between Canadian and Syrian kids at Lindsay Thurber High School in Red Deer, Alta. (CBC)

She said Canada needs to work harder to help newcomers feel more comfortable.

"If we don't help, then what are we doing as a country?" she told reporters Tuesday, while the protesters demanded she answer questions about Saudi Arabia and the Qur'an.

Providing the facts

With the rumours about the fight still running rampant Tuesday, the principal of the high school felt he needed to clear the air with his students.

"We began the day today with every one of our teachers speaking in their classes and, first of all, providing the facts," Dan Lower said, to ensure every student knew what was rumour and what was true.

Admon Slaiwa of Edmonton joined protesters outside the high school on Tuesday morning. (CBC)

His next steps were to address any resulting concerns from the student body.

"I got word that there were kids who were outraged that this was being said and wanted to go and, you know, protest the protesters," he said.

"I asked them not to do that. Just spread the truth of our school: be polite, be respectful, as we ask everyone to be."

He also said the safety of the students was his main concern, and that staff will be taking suggestions and fielding questions from students over the coming days.

Khan spoke about the importance of integration between Canadians and Syrians. The Grade 11 student included herself among those who have to do better.

"They're not integrating with Canadian kids," she said. "We do need to work better in helping them."

Supt. Stu Henry and Lower answer questions from the anti-immigration protesters. (CBC)

But just hours after she expressed her frustration with the lack of integration, Canadian and Syrian kids did just that — by playing a friendly game of soccer over the school lunch hour.

Turner said the response by the children speaks volumes about the school and students.

"They believe in what the school means to them," Turner said. "I think we've got a lot to learn from our kids."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kyle Muzyka

Journalist

Kyle Muzyka is a Métis-Cree journalist for CBC Unreserved. He's worked at CBC for more than five years, including for the Indigenous unit, Edmonton and Yellowknife. Reach him at kyle.muzyka@cbc.ca, on Twitter or on Signal.

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