Toronto District School Board seeking new Indigenous trustees

The Toronto District School Board is looking to add Indigenous representation to its leadership with the creation of two new trustee positions. But while the board has the power to create one of the positions, the second may require changes to Ontario’s education act.

Despite having hundreds of Indigenous students, TDSB can’t appoint Indigenous trustee

The Toronto District School Board is being asked to establish two new positions for Indigenous trustees. (CBC)

The Toronto District School Board is looking to add Indigenous representation to its leadership with the creation of two new trustee positions.

But while the board has the power to create one of the positions, the second may require changes to Ontario's education act.

The TDSB's Aboriginal Community Advisory Committee is asking the board to create a new Indigenous trustee to work alongside the board's existing 22 trustees representing each of the city's wards.

But the committee's motion, which will be considered by the board's agenda-setting program and school services meeting on Wednesday, also asks the Ministry of Education to come up with a process to create the new trustee position.

That's because, unlike other school boards in the province, the TDSB can't create an Indigenous trustee position under current regulations.

Though it isn't for lack of Indigenous students.

"We have a massive number of Indigenous students," Ward 3 trustee and Aboriginal Community Advisory Committee member Pamela Gough said in an interview.

A 2012 study found that about 0.3 per cent of TDSB students, or 850, self-identified as Indigenous. According to the study, many more Indigenous students within the board may choose not to identify because of, among other reasons, racial discrimination.

"We probably have a larger population of Indigenous students than any other board in Ontario," Gough said.

No First Nations reserve in Toronto

But unlike other boards, the TDSB doesn't have a First Nations reserve in its boundaries, something required in order to create an Indigenous trustee position.

The committee is asking policy advisors at the Ministry of Education to help the board create a "pathway" to establishing an Indigenous trustee position, Gough said.

None of the current TDSB trustees is Indigenous.

Increasing Indigenous representation on the board has become a priority for the Aboriginal Community Advisory Committee, and Gough said it is "frustrated" that no elected trustees come from First Nations, Metis or Inuit background.

"The Aboriginal Community Advisory Committee feels quite strongly that there should be an Indigenous voice on the board," she said.

Indigenous student trustee

The second position the Aboriginal Community Advisory Committee is asking the board to create is for a new student trustee.

Two elected student trustees already serve on the board. The committee is asking the TDSB to establish a third position for an Indigenous student trustee in the 2018-2019 school year.

Gough said the board has the power to create the position.

Student representatives participate in board debates and meetings, but unlike regular trustees, they do not have a vote.

About the Author

Trevor Dunn

Trevor Dunn is an award-winning journalist with CBC Toronto. Since 2008 he's covered a variety of topics, ranging from local and national politics to technology on the South American countryside. Trevor is interested in uncovering news: real estate, crime, corruption, art, sports. Reach out to him. Se habla español. trevor.dunn@cbc.ca