Two months after three basketball coaches at Saint-Laurent high school were charged with sex crimes, teachers and the union complain that management has given them no information about the ongoing government investigation. However, the investigator has just taken steps in this direction, according to the union.
Posted at 5:00 a.m.
“We are discouraged. Children [auraient] been sexually assaulted in our school by adults and we are not questioned. It is a total exclusion of our subject, and it is unacceptable”, affirms one of the teachers with whom The Press spoke and who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals.
According to our information, several teachers tried to find out how to speak to the investigator assigned to the file during a general meeting held last Friday with representatives of the Marguerite-Bourgeoys school service center (CSSMB). The director of the Saint-Laurent school, René Bernier, would then have said that he knew nothing about it.
Professors finally got their hands on the identity of the investigator in question. This is Philippe Côté, who works in the Directorate of Investigations at the Ministry of Education and Higher Education. “By contacting him, we realized that the investigator had no right to communicate with us, and that it was rather up to us to communicate with him. But we were never informed of that, ”laments this teacher.
“It’s all part of the omerta of our school board, of our school. We are always kept in the dark, ”he denounces.
No surprises for the union
“I’m not surprised by what the teachers are saying, because we ourselves, as a union, had a lot of trouble getting information from the service centre,” said Mélanie Hubert, president of the West Montreal Education Union, interview with The Press.
In the days following the arrests, she had asked the school service center for details of the investigation and its progress. “To date, we have had no follow-up from the employer,” she said.
Last Friday, the investigator himself would have contacted the union, in order to request that a call be made to all the teachers. “I received the latest information today and I was just looking at how we were going to pass on the information to both teachers and former teachers at Saint-Laurent school,” said Ms.me Hubert.
She added that employees were “angry” and “felt left out” when they met with management on Friday.
[Les employés de l’école] are eager to learn how to contribute to the investigation and feel confident with the ongoing process.
Mélanie Hubert, president of the West Montreal Education Union
The Liberal MP for the riding of Saint-Laurent, Marwah Rizqy, fears for her part that mistrust is setting in at the school towards the investigation and that it will lead to a “loss of confidence”. According to her, “the hour is serious”, and the Minister of Education, Jean-François Roberge, must inform the teachers of the procedure to follow if they have information to transmit.
Mme Rizqy also asks the ministry investigator to “go to Saint-Laurent School to introduce himself, give his business card to all staff, parents and students, and restore a climate of trust” .
“It takes us a deadline to report on the complete situation at Saint-Laurent school and put an end to the omerta”, demands the MP, who wants the members of the school management who were in office when the alleged facts with the coaches occurred be suspended with pay for the time of the investigation.
“We must restore a climate of trust to allow people to untie their tongues. I need the Minister of Education to understand the magnitude of the situation,” said Ms.me Rizqy, who herself played basketball during her school career.
“Nothing is named”
Teachers from the Saint-Laurent school want for their part “a household” within the establishment. “How teachers can have the taste to come and confide in the management, when she herself protected Daniel Lacasse [le responsable du programme de basketball féminin] in the past, and that it continues to perpetuate the silence,” said one of those met by The Press.
If girls, who [auraient] been completely destroyed and abused, found the courage to speak out, I think we adults should too.
A teacher from Saint-Laurent school who requested anonymity
“We want all of this, this omerta, this unacceptable situation, to break out, so that the young people who are coming can study in a respectful atmosphere. The problem must be stated before it can be fixed. But currently, nobody says anything: nothing is named. and children [auraient] been abused. We don’t want to be part of that anymore,” adds another teacher.
At the end of the interview, another states bluntly: “There are not many people who believe in this investigation anymore. There are a lot of teachers who are disillusioned. Just the fact that there is an investigator and that our director tells us that he is not aware, for us, that says it all. »
Few responses from authorities
Questioned by The Pressthe CSSMB was content with a terse response on Tuesday. “The current investigation is entirely led by the Ministry of Education, which determines the timetable and the means to be deployed as part of the information gathering process and it can contact all the people he deems appropriate,” said spokeswoman Annie Bourassa.
Investigator Philippe Côté said he was also not “willing to comment on the process” at this stage. “You understand that I am bound by the duty of discretion on this subject,” he wrote to The Press.
By email, the Ministry of Education remained equally cautious. Its spokesperson, Esther Chouinard, indicated that the government “does not comment on the progress of the investigations in progress”.
Quebec, however, recalled that there are two ways to participate in the survey. It is first possible to “request an interview” with the investigator Philippe Côté, by writing directly to email@example.com, or by filling out a form anonymously at https://denonciation.education .gouv.qc.ca/.
The Saint-Laurent school affair in a few dates
- February 2, 2022: Three basketball coaches from Saint-Laurent high school in Montreal, suspected of crimes of a sexual nature against two minors, are arrested.
- February 3: The three coaches are accused of various sex crimes. Daniel Lacasse, manager of Saint-Laurent’s basketball program, is accused of sexual exploitation. The other two coaches, Robert Luu and Charles-Xavier Boislard, face charges of sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching and sexual assault. Mr. Boislard is also accused of sexual exploitation.
- February 4: The Press reports a “super harmful” climate, marked by verbal aggression and intimidation, which reigned within the women’s basketball program.
- February 7: A coalition of organizations calls for the “rapid and urgent” adoption of a bill to “prevent and combat” sexual violence in schools. The Marguerite-Bourgeoys school service center (CSSMB) announced the same day the opening of an investigation, which it finally abandoned a few weeks later.
- February 8: The Minister of Education, Jean-François Roberge, launches a government inquiry into the case of the Saint-Laurent school. Shortly after, the Minister for Education, Isabelle Charest, announced the opening of an investigation into the “way” in which Basketball Quebec handled the situation.
- February 9: The Ministry of Education ensures that on that day, a letter from the Director of Investigations was sent to the Director General of the CSSMB, Dominic Bertrand, to “announce the holding of the investigation”.
- February 23: The Liberal MP for Saint-Laurent, Marwah Rizqy, asks Quebec to “suspend with pay”, while the government conducts its investigation, “current members and former members of the management implicated in the allegations of sexual and psychological abuse” at Saint-Laurent High School.
- March 2: The Press reports that a group of former basketball players have set up the Coalition of Big Sisters in Sport. Its mission: to put an end to the “culture of silence” that reigns in sport, in the wake of the Saint-Laurent affair.
- March 24: A dozen women gather at the Montreal courthouse, on the sidelines of a hearing in anticipation of the trial of the accused, to support the victims of sexual violence.
- Between 2 and 8%
- Proportion of athletes who experience at least one sexual violence in sport. Two-thirds of the victims are under the age of 18.
SOURCE: National Institute of Public Health of Quebec