It’s officially back to school for Quebec students. And as children return to class, some parents are worried about the anti-Asian racism and discrimination their children may face.
A group of Asian parents are calling on schools to take measures to prevent anti-Asian racism and bullying related to COVID-19. The parents formed a group to denounce racism based on experiences they have had and some of the anti-Asian racism they have seen related to the pandemic.
“There’s extra anxiety with the health concerns and given the fact that my child is of Asian ancestry, I’m a bit worried for racist bullying, or how what is going on is going to be filtered through my child’s brain while in school,” says mother Karen Cho.
The parents spoke at a press conference Thursday morning held by the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), which is helping the parents shed light on the issue as students across the province return to school.
The CRARR is working with the parents to propose measures to combat and prevent anti-Asian bullying in schools. Together, they are hoping the government and school boards will take action and protect children.
Even before COVID-19, many Asian students struggled with bullying and discrimination. Parents admit it’s sometimes hard to hear what their children are learning from their peers.
“’I learned something new today, Dad. Ching chang chong. Please don’t tell my mom.’ He’s eight years old he — doesn’t know what that meant,” parent Walter Tom told Global News. “I said, ‘Son, you can’t say those things, they’re hurtful.’ He didn’t know that.”
“We are of Asian descent. I often give my daughter Asian food for lunch. She said, ‘Dad, don’t put Chinese food in my lunch anymore because the kids say it stinks and it’s weird.’”
Allison Saunders, one of two newly appointed commissioners on the Lester B. Pearson School Board, says children’s voices are crucial to battling racism in schools.
“We are our children’s best advocates but so are our kids. We have to empower them to understand what racism looks like — what happens when it happens to you,” says Saunders.
One English Montreal School Board commissioner wants to remind parents about the existence and effectiveness of the Charter of Rights.
“I think it’s really important that parents stay on top of this — that they insist with teachers, principals and school board administrators that rights are rights and the charter still applies,” says Julien Feldman.
Parents Global News spoke to say cases of racism were prevalent before the pandemic and they worry it will only get worse.
“As parents and members of society, it’s up to all of us to address these issues head-on. We are all worried about safety but we have to think about (children’s) mental health and sense of belonging in this era,” Cho told Global News.
As children head back to school, these parents are hoping their local schools and the government will make changes to protect their children.