Parents seek anti-racism policies as Winnipeg teacher placed on leave after saying N-word in class
Parents' group denounces racism at Collège Louis Riel and 'complicit' actions of school division
A teacher at a Winnipeg high school has been placed on leave after using the N-word in class.
The Division scolaire franco-manitobaine (the Franco-Manitoban School Division) says it learned about the Thursday incident at Collège Louis Riel on Friday morning, and the teacher was placed on leave that day.
A group of parents of students at Collège Louis Riel released a statement condemning the use of the racial epithet by a teacher, which 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 conversation is mostly in French, but at one point the student says in English, "The minute that word came out of your mouth, you did not respect us at all."
Parents Against Racism, which was founded last year after previous allegations of racism at the school, released a statement denouncing the teacher's use of the word during a classroom discussion about free expression.
The group called the use of the N-word dehumanizing to Black students, and said it shows a culture of normalized racism exists at the school.
"It was disheartening.… It's important for people to realize that some people have been traumatized by that word. And some people are still traumatized," said Blandine Tona, a member of the group.
"We need to stop being complicit or complacent with everything that has to do with racism. It's hurtful, it's harmful … we have an opportunity to create space in schools that are safer for kids to grow without having to experience that."
WATCH | 'You did not respect us at all':
Tona said there is a very specific time and place to use the N-word, and it's only when it's historically significant and when prior consent is given by the people in the room who are then provided support after the slur is uttered.
She's disheartened because the school division waited until students and community members were deeply upset to take any steps to address the racism.
Parents Against Racism wants the school division to put in place anti-racist policies prohibiting the use of any racial insult in any context, and to review all curricula and materials relating to racism.
"It has to be a commitment," Tona says. "Not just saying, 'Today's the day against racism, we're going to do everything.' No. Do you have an anti-racism policy? Do you actively engage in conversation into how you can build capacity for your staff, for the teachers to be able to have conversations about racism that are respectful?"
In a statement emailed to CBC News on Monday, the school division condemned all racist actions and words, and said the incident showed it had more work to do to properly train staff.
A team from the division will meet with stakeholders to discuss the incident, and resources will be made available for anyone who felt disparaged and needs to talk, the school division said.
"Racism, like discrimination or bullying, are not new phenomena. They were part of the landscape of the first humans on earth," the school division said in a press release issued Tuesday.
"What should also be remembered is that these are not phenomena that are the sole responsibility of the school."
The division also said Tuesday it will form four separate advisory groups of students, parents, staff and community members to contribute to a community and school action plan by the end of November.
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.
With files from Godlove Kamwa, Cameron MacLean, Joelle Morgan and Jillian Coubrough