Black parent to receive apology from York Region District School Board

Charlene Grant

When  the York Region District School Board meets next Tuesday, its director, Kathi Wallace, will read an apology to a Black parent who was called a nigger by one of its  trustees, and to members of the Black community.

The apology is part of a settlement with Jamaica-born Charlene Grant who had launched human rights complaints against the board.

Grant’s fight with the board ended last month  with the mediated settlement of three complaints  which she  filed over the past year, outlining discrimination which she and her family had experienced at the hands of the board.

Among them,  were allegations that her son was called “intimidating” and “angry” by his teachers because of his race, and  an incident last fall when Grant herself was called a nigger by trustee Nancy Elgie who has since resigned.

Grant said that last November Elgie had used the racial slur which was reported to be heard by several persons.

A subsequent investigation into the incident was conducted by the board and Elgie issued an apology “for the pain my words have caused.”

But her apology did not satisfy the offended parent. Grant and many other angry members of the black community  demanded Elgie’s resignation.

Elgie, 82,  who had been a trustee for 17 years, finally resigned  last February.

Apart from the apology, the board has  given assurances of concrete steps  to stamp out racism at the board.The settlement includes the Board’s commitment to:

  • Establish a Human Rights Office that will collect and distribute equity-related data
  • Roll out mandatory training for all staff on equity, human rights, racism and anti-oppression, including anti-Black racism
  • Provide human rights compliance training for all staff who oversee complaint processes
  • Ensure students experiencing discrimination are aware of support services
  • Hold a two-day workshop to focus on delivering educational programing to racialized students with topics such as Islamophobia, anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous racism
  • Establish subcommittees to address issues of anti-Black racism and
  • Islamophobia and invite community members to participate

Last April a three-month investigation of the school board found that students, parents and staff had had feelings of “alienation, marginalization and discrimination” and that a culture of fear was rampant within the board.

Ontario Minister of Education Mitzie Hunter, who had  appointed two provincial reviewers to investigate the board, ordered it to implement 22 directives. These  included establishing a human rights office, reinstating the Every Student Counts survey that will capture “statistics relating to incidents of racism” and ongoing training for all staff on equity and human rights.

Several  of these initiatives are part of the mediated settlement with Grant.

With respect to the racial slur, Grant was seeking $20,000 in a claim for damages to her

“dignity and self-respect.”

In  an interview  this week, she told the Caribbean Camera that the ” financial part of the settlement  will not be disclosed.”

However, she  said that  she will work with the board ” to effect the charges which are part of the  settlement.

” I am going to be heavily involved  in that.”

“I also want other families to know that when they are discriminated against and racially profiled, there are laws to protect them,” she added.