A Viral Video Of A Montreal Teacher Questioning His Student's Name Sparked Racism Claims

A video of a Vanier College teacher questioning a student on his surname made waves when it was published on the Armenian Report's Instagram page on January 26, amassing over 38,000 views — and many commenters call the interaction discriminatory

The video shows the teacher, Afshin Matlabi, asking the student why his hyphenated last name does not list his father's surname first, ahead of his mother's surname. According to the Armenian report, the mother's surname is Armenian while the father's surname is not. 

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We have a duty of care to the student but we also have a duty of care to our professor.

Monica Bhattacharya, Vanier College  

"Why don't you put your dad's name first?" Matlabi is seen saying to the student.

The student appears confused by Matlabi's question, subsequently asking the significance of the order of name.

"I'm pulling your leg, for crying out loud," Matlabi then says.

"I'm just telling you your problem."

The Armenian Report's post says, "Many in the Armenian community at Vanier and the broader Montreal Armenian community have demanded the professor be terminated for embarrassing the student with armenophobic behavior."

However, CTV News reported that two other students in the class feel the "accusations of racism are out of context" since the video shows just a snippet of a longer conversation. 

Monica Bhattacharya, director of communications and corporate affairs for Vanier College, told MTL Blog that an investigation is currently underway.

She said the CEGEP hopes the investigation will be completed by the week of February 1, if "all goes according to plan."

"The bottom line is we want to know what happened there — what is the context and how [the other] students [perceived] it," Bhattacharya explained.

The dean of the teacher's department and the college's human resources department met with Matlabi on January 28, she said, and another meeting with the teachers' union is scheduled to follow.

Vanier's student services professionals have reached out to the student to set up a meeting, according to Bhattacharya.

Bhattacharya said the other students in Matlabi's class will also weigh in on the situation before resuming the class with a different teacher.

"Each one of them will then have their say in a private, safe environment," she said.

Bhattacharya told MTL Blog she has spoken with the student's father, who inquired about Vanier's process for filing a formal complaint.