The family of the alleged target of a blackface video in Montreal that was widely shared on social media is seeking to file a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission.
The mother, who doesn’t want to be identified by name in order to protect her son, who is a minor, told Global News that her son’s name was mentioned in the video.
“The two girls appeared in the video in blackface and also mentioned his name specifically,” she said. “He was targeted.”
In the video the lyrics expressed hatred for Black people and compared someone with her son’s name to a monkey.
The woman explained that her son was friends with the girls when he lived in Montreal’s West Island but that the friendship soured late 2019. According to her the video hurt her son profoundly.
“I’ve noticed it affects his mood, his decision making,” she noted. “He’s questioning a lot his place in society as well.”
She and the teen are now working with the civil rights advocacy group, the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), to bring a complaint to the Quebec Human Rights Commission.
“He was basically a target of racist insults in the form of public humiliation,” CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi told Global News. “So legally he does have a recourse.”
The family will seek financial damages but they are also pushing for something else.
“Blackface, we hope to have it declared as a hate symbol, and a symbol of racism to be outlawed by our existing human rights legislation,” Niemi pointed out.
Global News reached out to the families of the two girls. One family wasn’t available and the other refused an interview. According to Niemi, the school the girls attended, John Renie High School, as well as the Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB) could be held liable.
At a special online meeting Monday night the board voted to create an action plan to tackle racism and discrimination.
“It has to be a collaborative and cooperative effort if we are going to ensure as we always strive to, a safe and secure environment for our students and our staff,” Chairperson Noel Burke told the meeting. “To do so even means looking at our own policies.”
The mother of the alleged target of the video is looking forward to seeing what action is taken and she’s looking forward to a fair resolution of the situation for her son.
“This is really putting our foot down to make an impact and saying that there should be repercussions whenever someone does blackface,” she said.