After months of mounting pressure, a Toronto-area school board trustee who was overheard using a racial slur against a mother of three has resigned.
Nancy Elgie, 82, resigned from the York Region District School Board in a video statement posted to YouTube Friday afternoon.
"I have decided that the best thing I can do to serve the people of Georgina and the board is to step down," a tearful Elgie said in the nearly 10-minute video statement.
"I hope that this will allow trustees to move forward and focus on the many issues they face and that it will enable a process of healing and restoration to begin," she continued, adding she had agonized over her "deeply embarrassing" use of "such a terrible word."
Elgie came under fire after in November when she referred to parent Charline Grant using "the N-word." At the time, Grant hadn't heard the insult herself, but parents who overheard the slur reported it to her, calling for Elgie's resignation. Grant received a letter of apology from Elgie in January.
Move comes after mounting pressure
The resignation comes just days after a heated meeting of the board on Tuesday, in which chair Loralea Carruthers called on Elgie, who did not attend that night, to do "the right thing" and step down. Carruthers was joined by a string of trustees.
The following day, provincial Education Minister Mitzie Hunter added her voice to the chorus.
In a statement delivered by her son, Stewart Elgie, at Tuesday's meeting, the school trustee had offered a voluntary three- to six-month absence from her post, saying she was heartsick over the slur, which she claimed was the result of poor judgment caused by a brain injury.
On Friday, Grant told CBC Toronto she was grateful that Elgie decided to do "the right thing," saying the slur was especially hurtful not only for what it was, but also because it came after a complaint she'd filed for her son, who she alleged suffered discrimination at his Woodbridge-area school.
To have the word used against her in any context, let alone that one, made the comment that much more painful, she said.
Larger problems at board, parent says
"But my fight was not with Nancy," Grant said. "That was a distraction, to be honest. Now we can get back to fixing the problems at the York Region District School Board."
After she came forward, Grant said, parents began contacting her with their own stories of what she describes as systemic racism and discrimination at the board.
One of the most prominent cases involved Ghada Sadaka, principal of Sir Wilfrid Laurier Public School in Markham, who published several posts on Facebook about Islam and refugees that some parents reported as offensive. Sadaka later apologized for the "discriminatory postings," one of which suggested banning burkas in Europe.
Just last night, Grant said, she received a call from a distraught parent who said her 13-year-old son had been called the "N-word" at school.
"[Elgie] stepping down was never going to fix the issue," Grant said.
Instead, Grant and others have said what's required is a change in leadership, beginning with the firing of board director J. Philip Parappally.
Grant said Parappally and former board chair Anna DeBartolo mishandled the investigation into Elgie's comments, choosing to classify them under the board's respectful workplace policy, under which the process and results of the investigation were treated as private. Elgie would have at most been barred from attending some meetings, a punishment Grant believes would have "no teeth."
The board is currently under a review launched at the province's direction. The ministry expects a final report by April 7th.
Director doesn't answer questions about stepping down
Following Elgie's statement Friday, Parappally issued a statement saying the board is committed to "rebuilding trust and healing with the community that was so deeply affected by this incident."
"There has rightly been much attention paid to a racial slur said by Trustee Nancy Elgie. There is no context in which the use of such a term is acceptable," the statement said.
"As I have stated in the boardroom, I am sorry for the pain experienced by the families and communities affected by these incidents of racism. As director for this organization, particularly as its first racialized director, these types of occurrences deeply sadden me."
Parappally did not respond to questions about stepping down himself.
At its next meeting, the board will have to formally accept Elgie's resignation, chair Carruthers said in a statement Friday.
They will then begin the "transparent and fair" process of filling her vacancy, the statement said.