Saskatoon

Friends of Sask. teen who took his own life after bullying say racism still a problem

Friends of a teen who died by suicide two years ago say racism is alive and well in Saskatchewan.

Kaleab Schmidt took his own life at his family farm near Balgonie, Sask. in 2018

Belan Tsegaye and Bamnet Yirdaw remember their friend Kaleab Schmidt as a bright light and inspiring young man. (Brian Rodgers/CBC)

Friends of a teen who died by suicide two years ago say racism is alive and well in Saskatchewan.

Kaleab Schmidt's death is the focus of a coroner's inquest this week in Regina.

Schmidt had faced bullying and racism from classmates at Greenall High School in Balgonie, Sask. and was called the 'N-word' on three occasions.

Belan Tsegaye hopes her friend's death sheds light on the racism she and other people of colour still experience.

"I feel like schools don't teach about it and that's why people don't know that the N-word is racist, and I don't appreciate being called that. Unfortunately, schools don't teach that enough for people to realize the words you say actually affect people," Tsegaye said.  

Inquest heard student was arrested days before death

Schmidt died on his family farm near Balgonie in April 2018.

This week, a coroner's inquest heard he had been suspended from school a few months before his death for fighting another student who called him the N-word.

Tsegaye has sat and listened to much of the testimony this week. She said the big takeaway is that her friend would still be here if people had been kinder to him.

"When you're coloured and you're in a high school, you're a minority automatically. It's hard to deal with that stuff and I deal with racism each and every day and I feel like schools don't teach about it," Tsegaye said.

Tsegaye knew Schmidt was struggling with bullying and racism from some of his peers. She said racism is still a problem in Saskatchewan and something they've both experienced. She is hoping this inquest sheds light on that racism.

The purpose of the inquest is to try to determine how future deaths could be prevented. It's expected to run all week.

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