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Social justice B.C. teacher on receiving end of ‘horrific’ messages

Calls for Annie Ohana’s firing from Surrey high school rising; teacher calls for support
Teacher Annie Ohana at the counter-protesters in Surrey on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. Ohana is reaching out for support as she is being called a predator by “hundreds” of social media users who are also calling for her to be terminated from her job at L.A. Matheson Secondary. (Anna Burns file photo)

Surrey teacher Annie Ohana is no stranger to online and in-person harassment for her progressive teaching practices, but in recent days the educator has reached out for support as calls for her to be fired are mounting.

“I have hundreds of screenshots of horrific messaging; homophobic, Islamophobic, antisemitic, being called a c—,” Ohana told Black Press Media Monday (March 25), describing messages and comments she’s received since last week from countless social-media accounts.

Stepping into Ohana’s classroom in L.A. Matheson Secondary, the dozens of posters and flags on the four walls are hard to miss. As head of the Indigenous department and a law and social-justice teacher, the space reflects similar themes to the ones she teaches.

With quotes about racial justice, decolonization, capitalism, queer acceptance and more on social issues, the environment created in her classroom has been a recent target on X (formerly Twitter); in particular, by a former high-school teacher in Ontario. Chanel Pfahl’s goal, according to her X profile, is calling out “wokism” in schools across the country.

“She spends her days influencing kids to adopt her personal political beliefs,” Pfahl wrote about the Surrey educator, in a post to her more than 30,000 followers that included photos from Ohana’s classroom.

“She needs to be fired immediately.”

The backlash has been difficult to deal with, Ohana said, explaining it can be isolating as she is one of few educators in B.C. “targeted” by Pfahl.

“I have heard from teachers in Ontario that have faced her before,” Ohana said.

“Other people have stepped up, a lot of educators. (But) people are scared because if you say anything back, then they target you. I didn’t want anyone to feel harmed when putting themselves out there, so it can feel a little lonely.”

Criticism of her teaching is welcome, Ohana says, as long as it’s kept respectful. The recent barrage of tweets have not been in line with this, she added.

“There’s a lot of ‘groomer’ and ‘pedophile,’” she said.

“I can’t take any of it seriously… I don’t have to defend myself to anybody. The superintendent has my back, I spoke to the president of BCTF and he’s looking into things, my union is behind me, my administration.

“They were saying, ‘Oh she’ll be fired by Monday.’ Well, I wasn’t fired today.”

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In response to a request for comment from Black Press, Pfahl doubled down on her original post calling for Ohana to be fired.

“Any reasonable person who looks through her thousands of posts on X will see that she is indoctrinating kids with radical woke ideology, which violates the most basic principles of education and constitutes a terrible abuse of power and public trust,” Pfahl stated through direct message.

In a post to X Monday night, Pfahl – responding to a commenter expressing support for Ohana – notes her “goal isn’t to ‘harass’ her into ‘silence.’

“In fact, despite the fact that I profoundly disagree with her worldview, and think her teaching through an equity/intersectional lens is very inappropriate, I respect the fact that she’s willing to engage/stand for what she believes,” she continues.

“She even seems sweet, frankly. I hope she realizes, at some point, that she is caught up in an ideology that will destroy us all, and that bringing her activism to school is wrong.”

Ohana said she typically receives hateful messages and comments regarding SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity), given she is outspoken in favour of the provincial educational framework. But the recent influx of attention has expanded to include a broader range of topics.

The teacher doesn’t feel as though she is being “exposed,” since she is the first to share pictures and events she holds and attends to do with social justice, she said.

“Nothing I do is behind closed doors. People have the right to email me, to get in touch with me. I’m not hiding anything. I teach in the cafeteria, I teach outdoors, I teach everywhere. Anyone and everyone can stop and watch me teach. My door is almost always open,” she said.

Gaining support personally from Education Minister Rachna Singh has also been helpful, the teacher said, noting that the two spoke over the weekend.

Having the community rally around her is also a boost – but Ohana wants to see more done.

“I know teachers that are on stress leave and are quitting the profession, who have admin that are not supportive, who have districts that are not supportive so that’s why I have to say, you don’t have to suffer in silence, because people are.”

In response to a request from Black Press, Surrey school district released a statement in support of Ohana.

“The well-being of everyone in our school communities, including students, staff and parents, is always our top priority. We support our educators, administrators and support staff, who work hard every day to ensure our schools provide safe and engaging spaces for our students to learn and grow, and where everyone feels heard, respected and valued.”

Sobia Moman

About the Author: Sobia Moman

Sobia Moman is a news and features reporter with the Peace Arch News.
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