A group of protesters rallied in front of a South Okanagan school on Friday afternoon, leading to a ‘very heated’ argument with students.
A video circulating online shows a protester yelling at students from Oliver’s Southern Okanagan Secondary School (SOSS).
According to witnesses, the protesters arrived at the school near the end of the day. When students approached the group, the protesters allegedly began yelling about masks, leading to the heated confrontation.
“It got big really fast, and it escalated really quick,” said the grade 12 student in the video. Her name will not be given due to privacy reasons. The video, captured by a friend, shows a woman yelling at the grade 12 student.
She says the woman hurled racist remarks at her and another Punjabi student.
The woman said, ‘I deserve to be in this country, do you?’ She also said, “go home” and “go back to your country.”
“I just kept telling her that I was born here,” said the student, adding she couldn’t believe the woman’s shocking remarks.
“When my parents moved here over 30 years ago, they wanted a better life and moved to a community where they felt safe, and somewhere to feel like they belong. To have this happen to me was heartbreaking,” she said.
In the video, the two go back and forth yelling at each other, until the woman used another slur to describe the student and then walked away.
RCMP say that an officer did attend SOSS on Friday but was unaware of this incident at that time.
“There were ‘freedom’ people apparently supporting students that were demonstrating some sort of support for ‘freedom’ people. They were told to stay off school grounds and they did,” said Sgt. Don Wrigglesworth in a statement.
Wrigglesworth said that RCMP will be looking into the incident, now that they have been made aware.
“Bottom line is that there are adults in our community with their own selfish agenda, and on the surface, it is very unsettling and appears to have crossed a number of lines,” said Wrigglesworth in a statement.
“If criminal charges are warranted then that avenue will be pursued. The safety of children at school is very important and a place of learning appears to have been violated.”
SOSS’ principal, Tracy Harrington, confirmed the school has also been made aware of the incident.
“We are supporting the students who (are) upset over the event and have reached out to parents. We will debrief with students on Monday,” said Harrington in a statement.
Since the video was posted online, the grade 12 student says that she has received an overwhelming amount of support.
“I got so much support from the community … my friends, teachers, everyone telling me that this wasn’t okay, and it was disgusting what she said. They told me that I do belong here, and that I am strong and not to worry about this woman,” said the grade 12 student.