Editorial: Keep Violence Out of Our Schools

Graphic Carl Bindman

On Nov. 18, a teenager carrying a replica of an AK-47 sparked a school-wide lockdown at Collège Lionel-Groulx in Sainte-Thérèse. The lockdown lasted four hours. While it was a false alarm, this incident does not stand alone. In recent months, there has been a spike in lockdowns caused by similar threats across Quebec—this is a problem.

On Nov. 11, students at Collège Montmorency were ordered to stay inside: the campus was on lockdown. Lasting over four hours, students were only able to leave starting at 10 p.m.. The cause for this was a shooting that had happened at a nearby park and four people were injured. On the same day, CEGEP de Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu was also in lockdown. Students barricaded classrooms and one of the suspects was arrested wearing a bulletproof vest. On Nov. 28, a bomb threat at Jean-Baptiste Meilleur in northeast quebec caused the school to be evacuated.

The proximity of these events begs the question of whether students are safe given the current state of federal and provincial gun control. Why aren't guns more regulated in Quebec? Weapon fanatics often may say that restricting or banning guns takes away freedom from hunters, but when the threat of gun violence  takes away our freedom of safe education, the answer is clear. 

If educational institutions are being threatened, there is clearly not enough control. The federal government has recently proposed an evergreen definition of a prohibited assault-style firearm to fully ban most assault weapons, but the proposition, though celebrated by some, is being met with intense backlash. 

But this issue is bigger than gun control. This is about how our youth behaves, what mental health services are available to them and why so many young people see violence as a response to their problems. The lack of long-term care for people with mental health issues, especially those from low-income or working class backgrounds has an effect on how our population behaves. The government’s helplines, short-term counseling at local community services centres (CLSC) and the many “French only” services are not enough to meet the people’s demand and prevent outbreaks of violence and crime.

If the government will not act, it is up to CEGEPs and universities to conduct investigative reports on these violent threats. They need to take charge and figure out what can be done to prevent outbreaks like this. They need to do it so that students and faculty can feel safe walking into our schools every day, knowing we only have to worry about our grades–not our lives.

Let’s not forget the Dawson shooting in 2006; let’s not forget the Polytechnique shooting in 1989. Let’s not forget that Quebec already has a history of gun violence in schools, and that history so often repeats itself. 

The Link demands Concordia University to address this situation, and without stooping to  ineffective methods of increasing security on campus like policing people or asking people for their student ID cards when entering the building at night. For example, in the President’s Task Force on Anti-Black Racism, there is a call for Concordia to change security into “community safety rather than policing.”

We want to see actual change in how students’ mental health is handled. We want weapons to be more regulated. We want the colonial mentality of violence and power to be erased from our institution. We want safety.