The Edmonton Public School Board is condemning a “white alliance” student group connected to Strathcona High School that appeared on social media over the weekend.
The Scona White Student Alliance Instagram page made its first post on Sunday, Feb. 14, where it announced that “white lives matter,” a phrase that has been tied to white nationalism and hate groups.
“Strathcona High School has been increasingly anti-white rather than pro-black for the past few months,” the post said. “We are all equal and race should be ignored, we must judge each other by our actions, not by the color of our skin.”
The Edmonton Public School Board said it was “made aware of this social media account over the weekend,” but told Global News Tuesday that it did not yet know who created the account.
“The school has reported the account and has made Edmonton Police Service aware of it as well,” a statement from the board to Global News said. “There is zero tolerance for hate-filled accounts and posts like this.”
Trisha Estabrooks, the school board chair, said Tuesday that she believes the post highlights the need to fight “systemic racism in our education systems.”
“We can’t shy away from having these tough conversations in our classrooms, in our schools, and in our broader society,” Estabrooks said. “This is an opportunity to have those tough conversations.”
“This post just shows to me just how clearly needed these conversations are and how more work needs to be done.”
Students at Strathcona High School spoke out against the account on Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s really disheartening to see,” said student Ethan Loyer. “I was kind of personally upset because that’s not how I want to see our school represented.
“We’re a great place with great people, I think.”
“I think there should certainly be consequences for their actions,” he said. “I do not think that’s a fair way at all to represent their school. Especially seeing our school’s logo being used on the account.”
“The person who was behind that was a coward,” said Grade 11 student Semi Wohlgemuth. “Guaranteed they would probably not say that in real life.”
Estrabrooks said a similar Twitter account had also been started but has since shut down. She said it is “disappointing” that the Instagram was still active as of Tuesday afternoon.
“The fact that it existed, the fact that it is harmful, the fact that it is blatantly racist, even if it had a small spread, doesn’t take away the fact that this was done, and it has an impact.”
The school also sent an update letter from its principal Hans Van Ginhoven to parents at the school Tuesday after an initial one was sent on the weekend.
“Today, there were conversations throughout the school about who we want to be, how we can do and be better, and ensure our BIPOC students feel part of this community,” the letter Tuesday read.
“This is ongoing work and with your support, I know we will make steps in the right direction.”
The letter also said that the school “engaged Edmonton Police Service to look into this account.”
Edmonton police commented on one of the posts through one of its official accounts and said the Hate Crimes Unit has been “made aware” of the group and would be following up.
Another post on the account showed a video of Black activist Martin Luther King during his famous “I Have A Dream” speech in 1963, where King pushed for the end of racism.
“Society is being dominated by victimhood and anti-white racism, we are slowly regressing back to the starting point where others are treated differently based on the color of their skin,” the post said. “Our school has been doing the exact same thing, we are facing straight up racism against white people in our school.”
February is recognized as Black History Month in the U.S. and Canada.
The white alliance Instagram account also posted an update on Monday where it said there have been “many violent threats” sent in to the group and threatened legal action.
On Tuesday night, someone from the Scona White Student Alliance account provided a statement to Global News but declined to disclose their identity, citing the threats they claim have been made against them.
In the statement, the person(s) behind the account said they want the school to end what they called an “anti-white” curriculum and to acknowledge the existence of “reverse racism,” a theory that the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre says is a myth. In the statement, the person(s) behind the account also reiterated the phrase “all lives matter,” a term that many have described as being hurtful.