Ottawa Citizen
Tuesday 13 June 2000

Father mourns boy's suicide: 'My son was just a number'

Family accuses school of not acting on signs of depression

Nathalie Trepanier
The Ottawa Citizen

The school system didn't do enough to prevent Philip Allaire from killing himself only a few days before his 12th birthday, the boy's father said yesterday.

"The system is bad and my boy made an example of himself by sacrificing himself. Maybe someone else will survive because of him," said Marc Allaire, who found his son Philip dead in a small cabin near the family's Buckingham home on Friday.

"There's definitely a lack of resources," Mr. Allaire said. "It's really frustrating. He was just a number."

Philip would have been 12 today. Instead of celebrating his birthday, family and friends will gather to mourn his death.

Philip was a popular child at Du Boise Elementary School. Often described as a fun-loving animal enthusiast, Philip loved to laugh, said his Scout leader, Benoit Quevillon, a Grade 5 teacher.

Nicknamed "Dr. Doolittle," Philip loved all animals, but lizards in particular. He owned two at various times and littered his room with stuffed dinosaurs.

"I just don't understand," Mr. Quevillon said.

Mr. Allaire could think of no reason for Philip to take his own life, but said that the signs he was in despair were evident about two weeks ago.

Family members found a rope in the basement of his mother Manon Lalonde's house, a clear indication that something was wrong, Mr. Allaire said.

He contacted the school board's psychologist, who spoke to Philip over the phone once.

There were no meetings scheduled, Mr. Allaire said.

He said there are only three psychologists available to cover a large portion of the community.

The president of the Coeur-des-Vallees School Board, Martine Bergeron, said yesterday the boy, who was struggling through his school year, had met with the psychologist.

Richard Martel had deemed that the boy was depressed and offered his services, according to Ms. Bergeron, adding that an investigation is being conducted.

On Friday, Philip offered a classmate his special collection of pogs (children's collectable discs). According to the girl's mother, Suzanne Bouladier, Philip said he would not be needing them anymore.

Later that day, Philip asked to go to the bathroom. His teacher grew concerned when he did not return several minutes later.

Philip's parents were contacted when the boy could not be found anywhere in the school. His father found his lifeless body minutes later.

Ms. Bergeron held a press conference yesterday morning to detail how the board will deal with the tragedy.

But as she spoke, the boy's aunt interrupted, accusing the board of neglecting its duty.

In an effort to deal with students' grief and panic, the board sent eight psychologists, nurses and school counselors to Du Boise school in Buckingham, where Philip was a Grade 6 student.

Seeing all 336 students, the group spent the day answering questions and identifying extreme emotions.

Ms. Bergeron, who is also in charge of programming at the Centre Local des Services Communautaires Vallee-de-la-Lievre, said Friday's tragedy was the worst in her history with the board.

"You hear about adults doing this, but such a youngster?" she said. "It's the first time that I've seen anything like it."

Mr. Quevillon, who told the Scouts about Philip's death on Saturday, was still struggling with his death yesterday. "There were a lot of tears," said Mr. Quevillon.

Philip was a little timid, but grew out of his shell in the past four years, even joining improvisation groups, said Mr. Quevillon.

He was also well-liked by all 24 of his Scout friends. "He was always ready to lend a hand," said the Scout leader.

A funeral has been planned for 2 p.m. today at the St. Gregoire Church in Buckingham. Philip's class as well as his Scout group are planning to attend.

Copyright 2000 Ottawa Citizen