Quebec says colleges must report weapons seizures to police after report says workers turning a blind eye
Quebec’s education minister said he is “very concerned” about the rise of weapons seizures in the province’s schools and the lack of reporting such threats to the police.
Education Minister Bernard Drainville was reacting to a Noovo Info investigation that found in major cities in Quebec, school administrators say they are witnessing an increasing number of weapons being found in students’ backpacks and lockers, and sometimes items like knives and pellet guns are going unreported to the authorities.
In some cases when police are involved, they are handed several knives seized by school management who wait to call 911.
“We expect that reports of weapons in our schools will be duly communicated to law enforcement authorities and to school staff,” the education minister wrote in a statement on Thursday.
A special education technician told Noovo Info that knives are seized from students on a weekly basis at her high school in the Greater Montreal Area, but the police aren’t notified.
“Why don’t we declare it? I couldn’t say. One thing is certain, when it’s knives or pepper spray, management doesn’t declare it. The only time I’ve seen weapons declared were fake firearms,” Mélinda told Noovo info.
Mélinda is a fictitious name. CTV News has agreed not to name her because she said she fears reprisals from her employer for speaking out publicly.
Mélinda explored the situation at her school, where she says information on weapons seizures is often hidden from staff and tricks out by word of mouth among colleagues during their lunch hours.
“They tell us, ‘No, no, no, it’s fine in schools,’ but it’s not. I think people need to know what environment their kids are in, and it needs to change,” she said, adding that students are reluctant to report their peers to school administration.
Le ministre de l’éducation @BDrainvilleQc vient de réagir à la suite de mon reportage « Nous nous attendons à ce que les informations de saisies d’armes dans nos écoles soient dûment communiquées aux autorités policières et aux membres du personnel scolaire. » #noovoinfo pic.twitter.com/uNRNC4GYzC
— MarieMichelle lauzon (@mmlauzon) October 27, 2022
Quebec Public Safety Minister François Bonnardel also expressed concern about the report.
“A portrait of the weapons situation in our schools is essential and must be communicated to the police so that they can act,” he said on Twitter, adding that the safety of students and staff is “non-negotiable.”
Mon collègue @BDrainvilleQc et moi sommes preoccupés par cet article. The security of the élèves et des enseignants est non negotiable.
A portrait of the situation des armes in nos écoles est essential et doit être communiqué aux corps policemen pour qu’ils puissent agir. https://t.co/nlyROzb9Dw
— François Bonnardel (@fbonnardelCAQ) October 27, 2022
So far, no real gun has been confiscated in schools surveyed by Noovo Info, yet the types of weapons are becoming more and more diverse.
They include pepper spray devices, air rifles, axes, bricks, tasers, airsoft type machine guns, and small swords.
Teachers are ill-prepared to deal with these kinds of situations, according to another special education technician who asked that her identity not be published.
She recalled one incident where one of the students at her school may have had a possible gun, but the principal kept teachers in the dark about the incident and staff had to go about their workday as if nothing happened. “We never knew if it was true or not. It was stressful,” she told Noovo Info.
“I get students in my office who have been stabbed, sometimes shot. I’m not trained for that. I had one case where the student was 14 years old,” she said.
YOUTH ARMS THEMSELVES FOR PROTECTION
In a Montreal park, one 18-year-old student explained why he brings a knife to school and how common the phenomenon is where he studies.
“For real, everyone has them. It’s not scary,” he said confidently in an interview. He said he has them on him but never used them.
Another student, Ryan, explained the reason behind gun ownership on school grounds.
“People buy knives because they think people are going to attack them, but everyone has knives to defend themselves,” he said.
Another student who spoke to Noovo said it’s not uncommon to see kids carrying weapons on school grounds regularly. In fact, they often brag about their weapons while brandishing them openly on their social media accounts.
“People have them to defend themselves, they want to avoid being attacked,” he said.
When asked whether or not they consider the consequences of bringing a weapon to school — an offense under the Criminal Code — “there are no consequences,” a third student replied.
In response to the Noovo report, The Lester B. Pearson School Board said it has a policy in place to contact police when the safety of students or staff is “threatened.”
“Our customary practice is to request police intervention in such situations. Disciplinary or corrective measures can be imposed on students and employees for any act of violence or threat to the safety of others,” a spokesperson for the board said in a statement to CTV News .
The spokesperson also said the board has an official agreement for police presence in schools, which “specifies the obligations of each party with regard to searches, seizures of property and any other intervention in the school environment.”
TRACK THE PROBLEM
It’s difficult to get a sense of how widespread and common the issue is in local schools. Some police forces said they would need to process an access-to-information request to extract all of the data about weapons seizures in schools, while others said they categorize weapons differently compared to other agencies.
Some police services who could provide clearer data. For example, in Repentigny, police identified 17 knives seized in schools as of Oct. 11, 2022, which was an increase of 15 weapons compared to 2019.
In Montreal, official data from the SPVM indicated just two sharp-edged weapons were seized so far this year, but the number is likely much higher.
In nearby Laval, 10 weapons were seized in schools this year, while in Longueuil, officers seized seven weapons, including three pellet guns.
Last year was marked by a spate of violent attacks in Montreal schools, including a stabbing of a teacher at John F. Kennedy High School in December who survived the attack, and the stabbing death of 16-year-old Jannai Dopwell-Bailey outside programs Mile End High School in Montreal’s Côte-Des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-De-Grâce borough.
With files from Noovo Info’s Marie-Michelle Lauzon