Monday, 23 January 2017

UPDATE - Community members outraged by racial slur used by school trustee against black parent

By Neil Armstrong

An online petition calling for York Region District School Board trustee, Nancy Elgie, is gaining momentum with now over 2, 000 signatures.

The editorial board of the Toronto Star has also added its voice to the matter by calling on the trustee to resign over her racist comment in an editorial in the Jan. 25 issue of the paper.

Also in that issue is a commentary written by Nigel Barriffe, president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations; Hilary Neubauer of the Stornoway Growth Society; Chase Lo, executive director of the Chinese Canadian National Council - Toronto Chapter; and Naeem Siddiqi of the group, YRDSB Kids.
"The Urban Alliance on Race Relations is extremely disappointed that Trustee Nancy Elgie has not taken it upon herself to resign from the Board.  

"Were Trustee Elgie  a student, Teacher, Principal or Board staff member, she would have been suspended for her actions. The UARR urges the Minister of Education Mitizie Hunter to order an immediate, independent investigation into racism at the York District School Board," says Barriffe in an email. 

Nigel Barriffe, president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations
All four are urging the Ministry of Education to immediately investigate the "actions (or lack thereof) of board director, J. Parappally" and also want the ministry to examine how the board responds to issues of racism and discrimination.

At a public board meeting in November, Elgie, 82, a white school board trustee, called Charlene Grant, a black parent, a 'nigger' and recently apologized via email but will keep her job.

“As a community we need to be outraged,” said a friend in a direct message to me on the weekend.

I told her that I had read comments on Facebook and Twitter about it from racialized members of the community so they are speaking out against this. I also mentioned that the Vaughan African Canadian Association is taking action and has launched a human rights complaint regarding the York Region District School Board.

I noted that there are some Black/African/African Canadian organizations that I have not seen or heard anything from about the issue.

She noted that many from the community talk internally but “unfortunately we don’t have an institution to speak publicly and condemn it on behalf of the community.”

My friend is committed to sending emails because “the trustee needs to go.”

On Sunday morning, I woke up to an email from another friend with the subject line -- “We cannot allow this to go with action” – and a link to the Toronto Star’s story published on January 20.

The story in the Star indicated that Elgie had emailed an apology for the “horribly unacceptable statement.”

“As soon as my brain registered what I had said, I was overcome with shock and dismay. I felt heartsick and deeply ashamed to have said something so hurtful — even unintentionally — and so foreign to the values I have held throughout my entire life,” the newspaper reports Elgie as writing. She continued: “It also sickened me that I could have reinforced the systemic racism that so many have experienced in our society.”

Grant told the Star that she appreciates the apology but she is annoyed at the process which confirms that the board is still not open or transparent.

This is not enough for Grant and Education Minister, Mitzie Hunter, is already reviewing the board’s response about how it will address issues of racism and school board trustee spending.

Meanwhile, the board is facing two human rights complaints over racism. One comes from Grant who alleges that her son suffered discrimination at his school; the other is from the Vaughan African Canadian Association and the National Council of Canadian Muslims on behalf of several families.

[This is an edited and updated version of the original story posted on Jan. 23.]

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