Posted on July 21, 2015

Racially Charged ‘Bullying’ Leads to Public Housing Relocation

Dylan Robertson, Calgary Herald, July 21, 2015

Public-housing officials have relocated a Caucasian family after they went public with allegations of racially charged bullying by their neighbours.

Internal documents suggest the stone-throwing and harassment by children running rampant had escalated at the Shaganappi Village complex after the family aired their complaints.

Blair France moved into the Calgary Housing Company complex with her husband and two children last November.

In April, she claimed her children were subject to racial taunts and punches from children who come from East African immigrant families, who form a significant presence among the complex’s roughly 900 residents.

When France had rocks thrown at her house in May, she wrote to the mayor and local media, and hosted an anti-bullying barbecue. The event made news nationwide. Their story was picked up by a British tabloid and was even circulated by the white supremacist website Stormfront.

While the barbecue went peacefully, documents obtained under a freedom-of-information request show that the problems quickly worsened.

“Personally I believe this bullying is getting out-of-hand in the complex,” an area supervisor reported just two days after the barbecue, noting that “the kids are doing the same thing” to another tenant.

Larry Hamm, operations manager for the Calgary Housing Company, which runs the city-owned property, said in an interview that the district manager assembled two meetings with residents and a Calgary police liaison. They floated possible solutions, such as parents sharing supervision shifts or setting up extracurricular activities.

“There were definitely some issues and incidents that arose this spring and that went into this summer,” said Hamm. “They were in the context of kids being kids. Were they inappropriate in behaviour? Absolutely. Were they unacceptable? Yes.”

In a June 3 public Facebook post, France said the agency agreed to relocate her family to a southeast property.

France, who did not respond to Herald interview requests, claimed CHC contacted the alleged bullies she had named, and told them that “if they don’t comply to the rules they will be kicked out.”

She said things worsened two days later, when neighbouring kids threatened to kill her children. “They are so scared, they don’t want to go to school or even outside,” wrote France. “We just need to move.”

She moved the next day. Because of privacy restrictions, Calgary Housing can’t confirm exactly why they facilitated France’s move.

“All of the people involved were making efforts to resolve the situation, but it wasn’t improving. So with the approval of the people involved, we took the right steps to resolve the situation,” said spokesman Darren Nimegeers.

In the lead-up to the France family’s public appeal, internal notes show the company repeatedly urged the family to provide specific names of the alleged perpetrators. Meanwhile, support staff advised France at least twice about the “importance of supervising her children in the park.”

“The issues that arose this spring are neither unique nor the first time that they’ve ever happened,” said Nimegeers, though he’s not aware of stone-tossing happening at any other residences.

“With the size of population we serve, tenant disputes happen on a regular basis.”

In internal documents, senior CHC staff noted that the complex didn’t have any prior contact with a community support worker–a city employee who tackles multiple problems by identifying people who can help and providing training and supplies. The city limits these employees to areas deemed a “Community of Focus”–those that are in greatest need.