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Groups to kick off Black History Month with measures to fight racism

"The tolerance of the use of the N-word in elementary and secondary schools contributes to the development of anti-Black racism that continues in the workplace."
Author of the article:Katelyn Thomas  •  Montreal Gazette Published Jan 31, 2023

Two anti-Black racism groups will kick off Black History Month on Wednesday by outlining measures to fight racism in Quebec, Canada and beyond.
They say inaction by all levels of government is contributing to the perpetuation of systemic racism. At a private school in Rigaud, they say, Black and Afro-descendant students have been spat on, had their hair pulled and been called the N-word with no adequate intervention.
“We’re kicking off Black History Month with certain things like enough is enough with regards to the neglect, so to speak, of federal and provincial governments when it comes to systemic racism,” said Joel DeBellefeuille, the founder and executive director of the Red Coalition. “The school is one of the examples that we’re including into what we’re going to do.”
DeBellefeuille said Quebec’s academic freedom law, Bill 32 — deemed controversial because it by extension allows university professors the right to voice racial slurs in academic settings — translates to situations like the one cited at Collège Bourget, a private elementary and high school.
“(It) is kind of the stepping stone to the continuation of systemic racism within the educational system,” DeBellefeuille said. “In elementary school, high school, there are no regulations … but now that a law says that you’re allowed to say the N-word (in higher education), what do you think teachers in the lower levels, so non-university level schooling, think about it? … It’s an absolutely crazy law, and we feel that that is a contributing factor to what’s happening.”
The Red Coalition is joining forces with the Black Class Action Secretariat — an organization that acts against anti-Black racism involving workers in Canada — for its announcement Wednesday.
“We regularly receive testimonials from Black workers who are strangely similar to what the young black students at Collège Bourget told us,” Alain Babineau, the director of the francophone section of the secretariat, said in a statement Monday. “The tolerance of the use of the N-word in elementary and secondary schools contributes to the development of anti-Black racism that continues in the workplace.”
The mother of Black students who attend Collège Bourget said in an anonymous statement shared by the Red Coalition her children no longer feel safe at the school.
Collège Bourget director general Philippe Bertrand, for his part, said the school proactively intervenes in situations “to create a harmonious and healthy climate so that all our students are able to feel respected and safe, regardless of their differences.”
“Unfortunately, we are not perfect and a long road remains to be travelled so that everyone can act with openness, tolerance and benevolence,” he added. “Racist incidents have happened in the past and will surely happen in the future. However, we do not tolerate them under any circumstances and act accordingly.”
Bertrand said staff are given training to help them understand the different lived experiences of students so they can intervene appropriately.
“We do not wish to deny a reality that exists and against which we take action,” he said. “We simply want to work hand in hand and improve things so that a climate of tolerance — free of racism — develops.”




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