Mother takes school board to Quebec Human Rights Tribunal for refusing to pay damages for racist behaviour

·3 min read

A Terrebonne mother is taking the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board to Quebec's Human Rights Tribunal, after it refused to pay her the $30,000 in damages the Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission ordered it to pay.

Adrienne Charles lodged a complaint against the school board back in 2017, claiming her two sons, aged 8 and 11 at the time, were being called the N-word and "dirty" almost daily while attending McCaig Elementary School in Rosemère.

She said both the school and school board refused to do anything about it.

"When I went to the school direction to tell them about this … they always had an excuse," said Charles.

Three years later, the commission has ruled in her favour, but that decision is non-binding and Charles says her younger son, who is still a student at the school, continues to be subjected to racial slurs at the school regularly.

She has decided to file additional complaints with the Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission for the more recent events her family has dealt with.

"To see the hurt, the suffering on my kids, it hurt me," Charles told reporters Wednesday.

In one of these incidents, Charles says a student called her son the N-word loudly in front of his entire math class. She says it wasn't until another student told the teacher that he was crying that the teacher intervened.

When Charles went to the principal to complain, she says her son was ordered to write an apology, as she says the principal said he must have done something to provoke the other student.

"It's like it was his fault," Charles said. "It's horrible and things haven't changed. It's still the same."

On another occasion, she says, her son was physically beaten.

Charles says all the incidents combined had such a negative impact on her children that she needed to enroll them in boxing classes to try to rebuild their self-esteem.

The impact on the family was not just emotional, but financial. Charles says she was so distressed by what was happening to her sons that she was forced to leave her job.

She hopes that by taking her case to Quebec's Human Rights Tribunal, she will be able to protect not only her children, but children in all schools across the province from dealing with similar issues.

According to Fo Niemi, executive director of Montreal's Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, this is the second time a case involving racist actions in a school is being taken to the Human Rights Tribunal, which, unlike the commission, can issue a binding ruling.

"We'll deal with the systemic dimension of the issue. In this case, the systemic dimension is the failure to implement the anti-bullying plan adequately and effectively to protect the children's safety," said Niemi.

Just last week, another Montreal mother announced she would take her case against the Marguerite-Bourgeoys school service centre to the tribunal, after her two children suffered years of racist bullying and taunts.

In a statement to CBC News, the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board said it had seen the commission's ruling but would not be commenting any further.