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'You don't have to suffer in silence': Surrey teacher confronts online harassment


Annie Ohana’s classroom is decorated with colourful and thought-provoking posters and flags. They’re part of Ohana’s curriculum at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C., and meant to ignite dialogue amongst her students.

“We’ve had students tell us that those flags really mean something to them,” she said. “It represents them.”

While the flags and posters are embraced at the school, they’re also the reason Ohana was targeted online by Chanel Pfahl, a former high school teacher who – according to her bio on X, formerly known as Twitter – exposes “wokism” in Canadian schools.

Pfahl posted a photo on the platform criticizing Ohana’s classroom, saying the educator is “influencing kids to adopt her personal political beliefs” and that she needs to be fired immediately.

“She seems to be making a lot of assumptions that were simply based on misinformation, lies, and in fact, puts myself and other teachers and students and my community in danger,” Ohana said.

'Suffer in silence'

When asked for comment, Pfahl said in a direct message on X, “Any reasonable person who looks through (Ohana’s) thousands of posts on X will see that she is indoctrinating kids with radical woke ideology.”

Ohana said the curriculum and class outline she provides as the Indigenous Department head undergo an approval process by the Surrey School District, and that she and her colleagues are not indoctrinating any students.

“What we’re doing is building really strong, empowered citizens that can speak up for themselves,” she said.

This isn’t the first time Ohana has experienced this kind of harassment, but it is the first time she’s spoken publicly about it and asked for help online

“I think really the call out is to make sure that other teachers know it’s OK to ask for help,” she said. “You don’t have to suffer in silence.”

Harassing educators

Elizabeth Simons, the deputy director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, said there’s a trend of harassing transgender or gender non-conforming educators in Canada, as well as harassing school board members who declare allyship and intent to uphold inclusive policies around gender and sex education.

“Pfahl is one person in a large network of people and social media accounts who hyperfocus on gender-diverse educators and school staff, boards, and affirming policies,” Simons said.

Stephanie Wilson, an anti-hate researcher, said attacks on educators, school boards and provincial politicians have risen.

“What we’re seeing is an increase in attacks on teachers themselves through harassment campaigns, emails, social media attacks and it’s potentially very dangerous,” Wilson said.

'Absolutely having an impact'

In a statement to CTV News, Rachna Singh, the minister of education and child care, said she’s thought a lot about the teachers and support staff who have been faced with some very difficult situations over the past year as they stand up for their students in the face of rising hate, homophobia, and transphobia.

“I have spoken to numerous teachers who are facing mounting levels of hate, not unlike what I have also personally experienced. Intimidation and aggression have no place in our schools, and I feel strongly that our schools must be places where every student can thrive and feel safe and welcomed,” she added.

Ohana said while the hate she's received from Pfahl's post has intensified, she has also received support from other parents and organizations.

“There’s concern from the RCMP, lawyers, all kinds of people that are watching this,” she said.

As a Sephardic Jew and queer person, Ohana said these attacks are growing more virulent and vitriolic, causing some teachers to leave the profession.

“I’m thinking about the teachers who can’t be in front of you right now, that are so scared, that are going on long-term stress leaves," she said. "This is absolutely having an impact way beyond.”

Ohana said despite the harassment, she will continue to educate in the ways she always has, including using this experience as a teachable moment in her classroom.

“It's about intersectional empowerment for all, and I feel sad that people don’t see that,” she said. Top Stories

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