Manitoba

Winnipeg father feels targeted after teacher suggests he quarantine son

A Winnipeg father was shocked when his son's daycare teacher suggested he quarantine his five-year-old after the father returned from China.

Child was sick with flu before father returned from China

Wenlong Yuan has self-quarantined in his basement upon returning to Winnipeg from his trip to Jining, about 900 kilometres north of Wuhan. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

A Winnipeg father was shocked when his son's daycare teacher suggested he quarantine his five-year-old after the father returned from China.

Wenlong Yuan's son, Alex, recently came down with influenza during a trip to Disney World in Orlando, Fla., with his mother.

The two of them saw a doctor and the son recovered before returning to his private school, which CBC isn't naming at the family's request, on Feb. 6.

There's no way Yuan could have been the reason Alex was sick, as he was in China before and after Alex fell ill, Yuan said. 

Watch Wenlong Yuan describe how his wife felt when the teacher suggested the quarantine their son:

A Chinese-Canadian family in Winnipeg says their son has been targeted by his teacher because of fear and misunderstanding about the coronavirus outbreak in China. 1:14

Yuan was visiting his parents, who live in a nursing home located in Jining, Shandong, China, more than 900 kilometres north of Wuhan.

The outbreak, centred in Wuhan, has now infected more than 31,000 people globally and killed more than 630, according to the latest figures released by the World Health Organization.

When Alex went back to school, the teacher suggested Yuan and his wife quarantine Alex for two weeks at home, because Yuan had recently taken the trip to China.

"They also said, well, there is another kid whose grandparents came from China around three weeks ago and the kid was in quarantine at home," Yuan said.

"The teacher basically used this example to say you should actually consider this and we recommend you to do this," he said. 

Yuan was shocked by the teacher's suggestion and thinks this situation would "certainly" be different if his family wasn't Chinese. 

Self-quarantining to ease other parents

"I think people now make the connection, as far as, you are Chinese, as far as, you travelled through China. You should be in quarantine."

Yuan returned from his trip on Feb. 4 and decided to self-quarantine in his basement, keeping minimal contact with his family. 

Five-year-old Alex Yuan caught the flu while he was in Disney World. (Wenlong Yuan)

"I don't really go upstairs much and when I do I just wear masks and I don't really eat with them either," he said.

"Although I choose to self-quarantine in the basement myself, I don't think it's medically necessary. It's just to reduce any worry from other parents," he said.

The school administration told CBC this was a misunderstanding and Alex doesn't need to be quarantined. 

The statement also said that the school operates in accordance with public health guidelines. 

Yuan said the principal reached out to him this morning and apologized after Yuan explained how this situation made his family feel. 

"Most of the Chinese people that I know, they will not speak out. They will accept this," he said.

Hygiene and humanity

The daycare Yuan's son attends is not part of the Winnipeg School Division, but the vice-chair of the division's board wants teachers to be prepared to confront racism in schools. 

"Many Canadians are concerned about the spread of the novel coronavirus but with that comes fear and uncertainty and some of that fear is being projected towards the Chinese community," Jennifer Chen said in an interview with CBC host Marcy Markusa on Information Radio

Watch | What we actually know about the coronavirus:

Information about the coronavirus outbreak is spreading fast, but what do we actually know about the illness? CBC News medical contributor and family physician Dr. Peter Lin breaks down the facts about what it is, where it came from, how it spreads and what you can do to protect yourself. 5:10

"I think teachers can take this opportunity to teach our kids information on hygiene and teach our kids to have more humanity, to care about other children," Chen said. 

A spokesperson for the WSD said the division has had no cases like Yuan's and said school staff can't force children to stay home if they think kids might be sick. 

Any requests to keep kids out of school due to illness would require medically confirmed contagion and direction from the public health officer.

A Winnipeg father was shocked when his son's daycare teacher suggested he quarantine his five-year-old after the father returned from China. 2:44

About the Author

Danelle Cloutier

Associate Producer/Technician

Danelle Cloutier is an associate producer and audio technician in current affairs at CBC Manitoba. She has a background in audio engineering and journalism.

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