Assignment containing N-word removed after parents complain
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, March 6, 2018 11:16AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, March 6, 2018 2:24PM EST
MONTREAL -- A Quebec publishing house says it has removed a French grammar exercise after complaints it contained a racial slur.
The recent homework assignment for Grade 6 students at a Montreal elementary school included the French equivalent of the N-word.
Two mothers brought the assignment to public attention after complaining to the Montreal-based Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations.
The mother of one 11-year-old girl said she wants Education Minister Sebastien Proulx to investigate.
The woman, who asked she be identified by her first name Asha, said her daughter noticed the word in her homework.
The exercise involved finding the diminutive form of certain nouns. Among the lengthy list of French words, which included various objects and animals, was the French version of the N-word.
During a subsequent classroom discussion, her daughter's teacher allegedly told kids discussing the assignment it was a widely used, acceptable word.
"I find it unacceptable that in 2018, a teacher uses a racist expression in class and, further, that he finds a justification for it," Asha said in an interview.
The Marguerite-Bourgeoys school board says it hasn't received a formal complaint on the matter, but does not endorse in any way the use of such an expression.
The board says Academie Saint-Clement, an elementary school in Town of Mount Royal where the students attend, will follow up on the matter next week after the March break.
The casual use of the word in French raised questions about semantics and whether the term in French is as offensive as it is in English when it came up at the provincial legislature last November.
Parti Quebecois veteran Francois Gendron, the longest-serving member of the national assembly, apologized for using the N-word in front of high-school students in Quebec City.
He told the students he "worked like an (expletive)" as a cabinet minister.
But Gendron said while he thought the issue had been blown out of proportion, he acknowledged that "one doesn't have the right to use this expression in the context of today."
The inclusion of the word in the assignment only came to the attention of the school board and the publisher of the material after the mothers' complaint was reported Monday.
Editions de l'Envolee, the publisher, said the online-only document, which was first published in 1996, was removed from circulation as soon as it was discovered.
Publishing house director Jerome Coulombe said the appearance of the word is unacceptable and the exercise will be replaced.
Coulombe said he agrees with the reaction of the mothers and the young students who were offended by the word.
The publisher said his company has been targeted with hate mail and that he would have preferred it had been handled with a direct call.
Measures will be taken to look at materials prepared around the same time to make sure it doesn't happen again, Coulombe said.