By TOM GODFREY
Desiree Makuto has lived through apartheid in South Africa and is stunned by the amount of hatred and prejudice being inflicted against her son at his York Region school.
Desiree and her husband, Charles, live in Georgina, with their son, PJ, 17, who was seen being attacked by a White youth on April 8 on the grounds of Sutton District High School, in a fight that was captured on video and posted on social media.
PJ could be seen being kicked, punched and wrestling on the ground with another youth, as a group yelled the n-word and taunted him.
The Makutos claim PJ has never been in trouble until his arrival at Sutton. Since then he has been called names, shoved, bullied and attacked by White students.
Charles, who is from Zimbabwe, said PJ has been suspended four times this year for allegedly standing up against the youths.
“We have had a problem with racism ever since we moved here,” he said. “They want us to move, but we are not moving.”
The couple said White youths have appeared outside their home taunting PJ and calling him the n-word.
“No one from the Mayor on down wants to admit that there is a problem with racism,” said Charles. “Our son has been bullied and beaten and the officials are saying there is no problem.”
Desiree said she did not expect this sort of brutal racism in Canada.
“My son is still in the same class with the kids who assaulted him,” she said. “We are very outraged by what has been going on.”
The family is angry by a lack of action being taken by School Principal Dawn Laliberte and the York Region District School Board.
“We have had meetings with them and nothing has been done,” said Desiree. “The school and the Board are dragging their feet on this.”
York Regional Police Sgt. Clint Whitney said four youths – aged 14, 15, 16 and 18 – have been charged with assault and are before the courts.
Whitney said the matter is being investigated by the force’s Hate Crimes Unit. He said members of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Bureau have given more than 20 presentations to schools in the last 18-months. Seven of the presentations were for students at Sutton.
No one was available to comment from the School or the Board.
Members of the Vaughan African Canadian Association (VACA) said the area and the school have a history of racial incidents.
“We cannot stand by and watch this hatred fester in our communities,” said Shernett Martin, executive director of the Association. “This family needs our support.”
The Association is asking well-wishers to donate funds to file a complaint against the school and Board before the Ontario Human Rights Commission or to take other legal action.
Martin said funds will also be used to help the family move into a “community where they feel safe and welcomed”.
The Association said in 2009 there were several attacks against Asian anglers who were pushed into rivers and in 2008 a Georgina man had a skeleton which was painted Black hung by a noose in front of his home along with a Confederate flag.
Officials of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations said they are concerned by the “disgusting” incident and hope the justice system will prevail.
This highlights a “need for urgent action to ensure that all within the education community respect the Ontario Human Rights Code”, the Alliance said in a statement.
Donations to help the Makuto family can be made to: www.indiegogo.com/projects/racist-hate-crime-assault-against-a-black-student or contact 647-988-4636.