The two branches of the Russell Public Library collected messages of support from the community for the child, who was subjected to racist, anti-black taunts, then physical violence by two other children in the township on September 22. The 10-year-old’s arm was broken in two places during the attack.
Nobody could be charged over the incident, as all were aged under 12, but the attack led to condemnation, shock and sadness both within Russell and across the wider region. The library was chosen as a central point to collect messages of support in order to protect the privacy of the family, who asked to remain anonymous over the ordeal.
Russell Public Library chief executive France Séguin-Couture said more than 100 letters, as well as gifts, had been sent to the boy, as well as a friend who defended him during the attack. They were handed over to a family member at the library on Friday. She said the letters came from as far away as other provinces.
The attack came during a season of reckoning with the township’s relationship to race and diversity. The municipal council voted in July to change the township’s namesake, in order to disassociate itself from 18th century slave owner and anti-abolitionist Peter Russell. The council was in the process of finding another person with the first, middle, or last name “Russell” to become the town’s new namesake. That process was expected to continue after the town’s budget process was finalized.
The council voted during the same meeting to establish a Community, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee to advise the municipality on how to be more inclusive and understanding of minorities needs and interests. The committee, comprised of Mayor Pierre Leroux and four members of the community, met formally for the first time on October 13 to establish a rough terms of reference to present to the council.
The committee’s full terms of reference and overall role is expected to be determined a future ordinary council meeting.