The Black community in Montreal’s West Island is raising concerns and questions about racism in the area after a video circulating widely shows two teenage girls donning blackface, singing and dancing as they mouth a string of racial insults and slurs.
The video, which surfaced earlier this week, is being investigated by Montreal police.
A police spokesperson has said that both students involved are minors, and since their identities have circulated online both their safety and their families’ safety is at risk, but the force will not comment further on the case.
The video of the two teens, who attended John Rennie High School in Pointe-Claire last year, has also led to an administrative investigation by the Lester B. Pearson School Board into its production.
The school has also issued a statement condemning their actions.
“We see it really as a wake up call to acknowledge that racism does exist in schools and a need for us to revisit and renew our active fight against racism,” said school board chairperson Noel Burke.
The video — which has been viewed thousands of times — is also a hurtful reminder of racism the Black community has been forced to endure. It has also been the source of conversations for parents like Patricia Blackett to have with their children.
After seeing those images, Blackett said her daughter was “very quiet and pensive and spoke about how it was so hurtful.”
While she has taken it upon herself to assure her daughter those actions do not define the Black community, Blackett says educators needs to address racism.
“We are expecting, you know, school boards to say, ‘Yes we have perpetuated systemic racism,'” she said.
The Lester B. Pearson School Board will hold a special council meeting next Monday where they will make a public statement on the incident and the measures they plan to undertake to address it, according to Burke.
Teachers are also not ignoring the incident, according to Huntley Addie, who taught both teens last year at John Rennie. He said he never would have thought they were capable of doing something like that.
“We’re not ignoring this. We’re talking about it and it’s essential,” said Addie.
“Just because a few students that we could never reach chose to do this, it doesn’t mean everybody is and it certainly doesn’t mean that we’re ignoring it.”
The video has surfaced at a time when conversations and demonstrations are underway over systemic discrimination in Montreal and Quebec — including in the West Island. The images and flurry of slurs has also sparked widespread condemnation.
Myriam Made, who saw the video on Facebook, said she is worried about the effect the racist message from the video is having on young people.
“There is no way they are not affected by this,” she said.
Made said she is teaching her son to take the high road, but she worries he will experience even worse racism in the future.
“This is the beginning of my son’s storm, you understand?” she said. “He’s 16, six foot two, and he’s visibly a Black child.”
— With files from Global News’ Alessia Simona Maratta, Gloria Henriquez and the Canadian Press