Montréal-Nord high school teacher suspended after students allege long history of racist comments
'We want change,' says Hiba Jabouirik, who appeared in a video calling out her former teacher
Former students at Henri-Bourassa high school are hoping the suspension of a teacher alleged to have made racist remarks leads to change and sparks a broader conversation about inclusivity in the classroom.
Vincent Ouellette was suspended after a video surfaced last week showing him repeatedly using the N-word during an online class.
Since then, several other students and former students at Henri-Bourassa have come forward with complaints about Ouellette's behaviour, including allegations that he regularly made Islamophobic comments and would jokingly do Nazi salutes.
The Centre de services scolaire de la Pointe-de-l'Île said an investigation into the allegations is underway.
"Inclusion, equity and caring are at the heart of our educational mission and no form of discrimination can be tolerated in our establishments," Antoine El-Khoury, director of the service centre, said in a statement.
El-Khoury said he wants to assure current students and graduates and the community of Montréal-Nord that the matter is being taken seriously.
The service centre as well as Ouellette's union have said he wouldn't comment.
In the online class, Ouellette, a history teacher, used the N-word in both French and English. He appeared to be discussing the term's usage in history and the recent controversy at the University of Ottawa.
Students and former students have since created a Facebook page and a video detailing further allegations against Ouellette dating back more than a decade.
In the video, posted to YouTube by Hoodstock, a community group based in Montréal-Nord, two students relayed how he had asked his students to raise their hand if they were "Québécois."
When nearly everyone raised their hand, he said, no, "Québécois de souche" — referring to those whose ancestry is exclusively French-Canadian.
Henri-Bourassa High School, located in one of the city's most diverse neighbourhoods, is home to roughly 2,300 students.
Hiba Jabouirik, who appeared in the YouTube video, told CBC News she was subjected to Islamophobic comments by the teacher.
Jabouirik said she felt compelled to speak out to encourage a broader discussion around systemic racism.
"We want change, and in order to change we need a dialogue," said Jabouirik, who graduated in 2016.
Gio Olmos, who graduated in 2012, said being in class with the teacher "was a dehumanizing experience."
Olmos, too, is hoping to spark a larger conversation and wants the province to take notice.
"We believe that the learning environment for BIPOC students in the province is not safe enough for them to thrive and go on to be healthy adults that fulfil their dreams," Olmos said.
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.