How Do You Sleep?

MONTREAL – “So Sgt. Pepper took you by surprise… How do you sleep? How do you sleep at night?”

Those are the famous lyrics written by John Lennon in 1970. It’s been three days since I could sleep at night. Hm, I stand corrected. It’s been a year since I could sleep at night.

Why has my precious sleep been disturbed this week?

A tyrannical high school teacher from Henri-Bourassa High School.

A few days ago, current and former students from Henri-Bourassa High School in Montreal-North spoke out on the abuse they suffered from a history teacher. Not only did he constantly use the N*** word, but he was a pure tyrant! He regularly insulted and denigrating racialized students for a decade.

Here an example of his behaviour:

‘’We had a class on Charlie Hebdo. For 45 minutes, he asked the Muslim students to apologize,” reported one student. “He called us terrorists. He told us it was our fault’’ added another.

Oh, it didn’t stop there…

He continued: ‘’it’s unacceptable that three students wearing the hijab should sit together in my class. What? You will put a bomb in my car after the class’’.

The same student told a black student while a group of students were painting a new wall at the school as part of a project that the wall need to be decapited before painting it.  The teacher told this student that he should get used to this task because he will probably do this on his own wall when he goes to jail.

I’m speechless.

For a decade, these students heard so many awful things. They were victims of bullying by someone that should have been teaching them, someone that should have been a mentor. The school’s administration didn’t protect them at all.

With everything that is going on right now in Quebec regarding systemic racism, these former Henri-Bourassa High students who didn’t have a model leader at their school, are showing us how leadership is done.

They decided to create a Facebook group denouncing the teacher and the school’s administration. They were  careful not to directly name the teacher in their statement, but they were very clear on the fact that this teacher should not be teaching. With his lack of ethics and his racist behaviour, he shouldn’t have the privilege to provide knowledge (or in his case, lack of knowledge and common sense) to kids, and even adults.

Montreal-North is a very multicultural district. I know because, I’m a proud woman born and raised in the Northside.

We (the people of Montreal-North) are used to being the black sheep of Montreal in the media. The Northside is seen as the most dangerous and one of the most fragile neighbourhoods in the city. You will never read, Montreal-North being one of the most resilient neighbourhoods in Montreal. You will never read about Montreal-North supplying some of the most prominent leaders and that are now giving back their community.

My last three years of high school were at Calixa-Lavallée High School.  I had the chance to learn from the best teachers a teenager could ask for. I have very fond memories of my History teacher, Mr. Forget. This teacher made me feel proud of being a Quebecer. I learned so much during his class, and being the first generation of Quebecers in my family, it made me feel more at ease in my own skin. Yes, my skin is a little bit darker than some of my classmates, but I never felt out of place.

These young men and women from Henri-Bourassa High School are exemplary leaders and they grew up in this beautiful, sometimes tough, but resilient part of the city. I was so amazed by their strength and courage. I know the parents of the students of the Henri-Bourassa High School.Those students share the same values as their parents, the people I went to high school with, who were also first generation Quebecers inspired by Mr. Forget’s teaching.

I don’t know if I would have had the same amount of courage 22 years ago, when I was in high school.

To read about the shameful events those students had lived at the Henri-Bourassa High School made me so sad.

Why, 22 years after my high school graduation, are we going backwards as a society?

Sgt. Pepper took me by surprise a few days ago…

What’s next?

 Since last night, La Presse, Le Devoir, and other news outlets are writing about this story. So basically, it took the reporting of these events by several municipal outlets for the school and the administration to act. Where were they when the students and the parents complained about this behaviour from this shameful teacher the first time?

I’m happy that all those journals are talking about it, but will it be a one-time thing? Like, oh let’s talk about this subject for today since it’s viral and we will get a lot of clicks. What about tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, in a month from now or in a year? Will they still talk about this issue, will they ask the readers the real questions about racism. Is there racism in Quebec?  The answer is yes. Is there some discrimination in Quebec regarding the colour of your skin, your religion, your sexual orientation, your age and the list can goes on and on? The answer is yes.

I’m going back to the fact that racism is everywhere, even in Quebec, I don’t want this to be a charity case. It should be a big wake up call about racism in Quebec.

Is it obvious now that systemic racism exists in Quebec? When it happens in the most multicultural neighbourhood of the city?

Will media like Le Journal de Montreal keep putting their heads in the sand by saying there is no systemic racism in Quebec? Will they continue to say we are a bunch of crybabies?

I will tell you what’s next.

Those young leaders are taking us to school right now! They are showing us what it is to be courageous, diplomatic, and fearless, while being true to themselves.

I’m so proud of them. They will help me sleep at night, knowing that the next generation will keep fighting the good fight.

They are learning while they listen to their mentors at different charities like Nos Jeunes à Coeur, Pour 3 Points, and others charities  that believe in themselves. They are learning to be proud Quebecers and proud, peaceful citizens of the world.

Here comes the sun.

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