As a senior at St. Michael’s High School, I’ve been witness to countless acts of transphobia, homophobia, racism, antisemitism, bullying, and hate. I’ve seen swastikas engraved on desks and walls and overheard students compete on who can scream the n-word louder.
This atmosphere of hate is being fuelled by toxic comments and ignorant jokes made across the school. It seems students don’t understand the extent to which their ‘innocent’ jokes contribute to what I see as a propagating culture of hatred. I feel frightened by the notion that these same students will soon be responsible for the future of our society.
According to the Supreme Court of Canada, “Hatred is predicated on destruction, and hatred against identifiable groups, therefore, thrives on insensitivity, bigotry and destruction of both the target group and the values of our society.” Under the Criminal Code, the incitement or propagation of these acts is punishable with up to two years in prison.
Students deserve a safe and non-toxic learning environment. In my opinion, the issues at St-Mike’s are systemic, they cannot be treated case-by-case, and they require a systematic solution. School is a breeding ground for ideas, and it is our responsibility to ensure that the ideas and opinions circulating represent the values of an inclusive society in which everyone feels safe and valued.
The broader community also has a role to play in ensuring this fundamental institution is cultivating the future citizens of a society we can all call home. It is the responsibility of parents to teach their kids to think critically, recognize the toxicity in their midst, and act as allies to those under attack. I urge you to get engaged, build awareness, talk to your kids, and ensure that love is louder than hate!