Refugees Welcome Fredericton condemns the coverage by The Rebel and the Toronto Sun, media outlets that are backed by outspoken conservative anti-immigration pundit Ezra Levant, as promoting racism, xenophobia and islamophobia while lacking evidence for its outrageous claims regarding Syrian refugees at the Fredericton High School (FHS) in New Brunswick. Refugees Welcome Fredericton, a working group of No One Is Illegal Fredericton, is a refugee and migrant solidarity organization that supports the struggles of refugees, migrant workers and indigenous peoples.
The Rebel claims that it has email correspondence between educators through a right to information request that supports its accusations of “Sexual harassment. Bullying. Picking on the Jewish kids. Threatening and swearing at teachers. Talking about terrorist weapons, like rocket propelled grenades.” The Rebel has hidden these documents and most of its article behind a paywall, requiring a paid subscription to access this content. However, Refugees Welcome Fredericton was able to access the documents through a temporary free trial and review them, finding no truth in these accusations.
A preliminary search of keywords revealed no statements suggesting that adult refugees were being mixed with children, and considering that all gendering language has been blacked out it is impossible to prove that adult men have been interacting with young girls in any way, much less sexually assaulting them! Furthermore, there was no mention of sexual harassment in the documents. There is also no evidence that refugees were receiving any sort of special treatment or that Syrian children were “excited” after hearing about ISIS attacks.
The Rebel alleges that Syrian students did not face consequences for skipping classes at FHS, when in fact there are multiple emails in the information request showing education staff discussing the issuing of detention for these transgressions and how to explain the importance of regular attendance to the students.
The Rebel tries to incite fear around the refugees as old as twenty taking classes at FHS, while only a small number of the refugees at this high school are this age and they work with an Educational Assistant at all times to aid in their educational goals. The older students were not able to complete secondary school in their country of origin (a common problem in places ravaged by war). Their education should be supported and not shamed.
The Rebel also implies that students are refusing to learn English. When the problem of some refugees experiencing difficulty with the English language was identified, Arabic translators were brought to the high school. In fact, multiple correspondences highlighted both the students’ prioritization of learning English and the administration’s desire to facilitate the learning of the language.
While we welcome more investigation by media into the outrageous claims, we can say with confidence that the accusations made by The Rebel and the Toronto Sun appear to be unfounded. David McTimoney, superintendent of Anglophone West School District, was quoted on CTV (July 8, 2016) claiming that the reports were exaggerated and sensationalized.
We condemn this blatant misrepresentation of the situation in our community and the anti-refugee and anti-migrant backlash it seems intent on inciting. Recent attacks on Muslim women in Canada, racial profiling and brutality by the police and the criminalization of indigenous land defenders are a very dangerous reality for members of our community. These hateful acts are fuelled by racist and fear-mongering media.
We support students, educators, and settlement workers in their efforts to aid in the settlement of new refugees and migrants here in Fredericton and call for continuing public solidarity in response to offensive and racist coverage of these settlement efforts.