One of the city’s private schools has once again found itself in hot water after a Facebook picture featuring a student in blackface resurfaced, causing outrage and prompting the school to issue a public apology. "We are disappointed and sorry for these unacceptable publications," said Collège Sainte-Anne in a statement. "We apologize on behalf of the entire Saint-Anne community. Despite all our efforts, inclusion and openness to the world remain areas on which we must be more diligent."

On Monday afternoon, the private college in Lachine confirmed that a photo shared online by anti-racism activist Alexandre Vachon shows one of its students in 2012 with their face, body, and hands painted black standing in a crowded hallway and wearing a multi-coloured dress.

The "students presented themselves like this during an activity," stated the college’s spokesperson Nancy Gendron in an email.

It was the second apology issued by the school for racist incidents in recent weeks.

The first came on June 21 after a video of six students wearing costumes spelling out a racist term began circulating on social media.

Vachon said a Collège Sainte-Anne alumnus sent him a screenshot of the post last week and he then found it on the institution’s official Facebook page.

It has since been taken down.*

"I was absolutely mortified," said Vachon in an interview with MTL Blog.

 

"It was so disturbing because it was literally a picture of an adolescent being [celebrated] for blackface. It was literally like looking at a minstrel show picture, the hair, the clothes, the skin paint, it was just disgusting."

As the Black Lives Matter movement has gained momentum following the killing of George Floyd, Vachon said it is time for the school to do more to address racist behaviour.

"We are no longer tolerating racial oppression, we are no longer tolerating systemic racism," he said.

"Schools and schoolboards need to understand that we are not looking for the same responses as in the last."

The college is promising to launch a number of anti-racism initiatives including a committee of students, staff, and community members to provide perspective and advice to help the school move forward in grappling with discrimination. 

The committee is being given a broad mandate to review hiring and ethics policies, introduce prevention strategies to counter racism, and educate staff and students to promote inclusivity.

But Vachon said that the larger problem of racism in the school remains deeply ingrained and can only be solved through radical change. He’s calling for top school administrators to step down.

"We are living in unprecedented times, we are expecting unprecedented answers," he said.

"Things will get uncomfortable, but they've always been uncomfortable for us. The question is, are our white allies willing to give up their comfort for our sake?"


*This article has been updated.

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