Manitoba school division working with anti-racism consultants after teacher says N-word in class
Parents Against Racism member wants process expedited, saying 'I don't think racism can wait'
A month after a Winnipeg high school teacher was placed on leave after using the N-word in class, the school division says it's working with consultants to address problems with racism in all its schools.
The Division scolaire franco-manitobaine (the Franco-Manitoban School Division) says it learned about the Oct. 14 incident at Collège Louis-Riel the next morning, and the teacher was placed on leave that day.
The use of the slur was filmed and posted on social media.
In a video posted on Snapchat that was viewed by CBC News, a teacher and a student argue. The student can be heard saying, "The minute that word came out of your mouth, you did not respect us at all."
"What happened in October was unfortunate. It shouldn't have happened and we have to learn from it," said the director general of the school division, Alain Laberge, in an interview on Saturday.
WATCH | Teacher placed on leave last month for uttering the N-word:
The teacher was still on leave as of Saturday, Laberge said.
The division sent a letter to parents on Friday, detailing its plans to address racism in the school.
"We're working with a lot of experts from outside the school division because we think it's important to have a different look at what we're doing ... because we believe it's important that we can make our school division the best school division possible," Laberge said.
He said the consultant will deliver initial observations by the middle of next month, and the school division will use that to develop a plan by the middle of January.
"We don't want this to linger," Laberge said.
But that's how it feels to one parent.
'I don't think racism can wait'
A group of parents from Collège Louis-Riel founded a group last year over previous incidents of racism at the school.
One member, Blandine Tona, is happy some action is being taken, but wants the process of creating an anti-racism policy expedited.
"I don't think racism can wait," Tona said in an interview on Saturday.
"We've been trying maybe 16 months to be working to avoid what already happened. And that is still happening.... We shouldn't be waiting that long to have a statement against racism."
Tona says Parents Against Racism want three things: For an anti-racism policy to be created, for children and staff to have a safe place to go to report discrimination and for parents to be involved in addressing racism.
She says these are actions the school division "can take now, not tomorrow, not in a month, not in two months, that can send a clear message to reestablish the trust that is needed for the children."
"Having this is sending hope, but I feel like [sending an] immediate response and engaging more into what they want to do today, this would be more meaningful."
Laberge is confident in the plan moving forward, but knows discrimination exists in all facets of society.
"We believe the plan we have in place will work, but we can't eradicate racism and intolerance totally and completely. I wish we could do it, but I don't think it's possible," he said.
"What we can do is educate."
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
With files from Sheila North and Émile Lapointe