Education minister orders review of school board following allegations of racism

Mitzie Hunter, Nancy Elgie and Charline Grant

Ontario’s education minister  Mitzie Hunter has ordered an “urgent review” of the York Region District School Board which she said  failed to adequately address governance and equity issues.

In a statement issued last Thursday, the minister said she has  appointed two people to conduct the review: Patrick Case, a law professor and former trustee with what used to be the Toronto Board of Education, and Suzanne Herbert, a former deputy minister in Ontario, including deputy of education.

They have been asked to issue a final report to the ministry by April 7.

The minister’s statement comes as the board  finds itself  in a controversy over allegations of racism and other problems from parents and community members, including calls for a trustee to step down after she apologized for using a racial slur.

More than  1,600 concerned citizens in York  Region have signed a petition demanding trustee Nancy Elgie resign for calling a black parent  a ” nigger.”

The parent, Jamaica-born Charline Grant  said that during a public meeting last November, Elgie  used the racial slur which was reported to be heard by several persons.

A subsequent investigation into the incident was conducted by the York Region District School Board and  Elgie has since issued an apology.

In a letter of apology  Elgie said ““It is plainly unacceptable that anyone in public office would use such a word to describe another person.”

But her apology has not satisfied the offended  parent and many angry members of the black community who have been calling for her resignation.

In an interview with the Caribbean Camera last week, Grant noted that Elgie said “she (Elgie) used that term because she was recovering from having bumped her head and didn’t know my name. You don’t know my name and you call me a nigger? We are talking about systemic discrimination and she proved it by using that word.”

“I’m just hoping that her fellow trustees tell her to do the right thing, and that justice can be served. We’re not stopping, We’ve already got over 1600 signatures and its growing; People want to see justice and this cannot go unpunished.”

The education minister said on Friday that ” it’s very important to parents and a priority for me that issues of racism and discrimination are not tolerated in our education system .It is my expectation that all of our publicly funded schools are inclusive and safe places for student well-being and learning.”