Canada·CBC Investigates

Anti-trans candidates fail to make major gains in Ontario school board elections

Of the dozens of school board candidates running against gender inclusivity, only around 10 appeared set to win their campaigns, and most were incumbents whose social conservative views were already well-known to voters beforehand. 

Candidates under 'anti-woke' platforms foundered in high-profile races in Ottawa, Waterloo, Hamilton

Several regions in Ontario saw opponents of gender-inclusive education form coalitions in an effort to claim more influence on school boards. (Eduardo Lima/The Canadian Press)

The organized opposition to gender-inclusive education in Ontario failed on Monday to make significant gains in province-wide school board elections, according to unofficial election results.

A CBC News investigation had identified more than 50 candidates for trustee positions who were running on a variety of promises that alarmed advocates for transgender students.

These promises included ending privacy policies that protect transgender students from being outed against their wishes, pulling books from libraries that deal with sexual and gender minorities and vague calls to end the teaching of "gender ideology," a term that belittles non-binary individuals. 

Many of these candidates also stated their opposition to anti-racism education, grouping both positions as being "anti-woke."

Of the dozens of candidates running against gender inclusivity, only around 10 appeared set to win their campaigns, and most were incumbents whose social conservative views were already well-known to voters beforehand.

That estimate is based on unofficial results posted on city, town and county websites. Some have yet to post results for school board elections. City officials across the province will begin validating the results today. 

Ottawa school board trustee Lyra Evans won re-election in Ottawa on Monday. Evans, a transgender woman, has spoken out about transphobia in local politics. (Lyra Evans/Facebook)

Effort to claim more influence on school boards

Several regions in Ontario saw opponents of gender-inclusive education form coalitions in an effort to claim more influence on school boards.

Conservative advocacy groups, such as Campaign Life Coalition and Parents as First Educators, have also made electing sympathetic school board trustees a priority of their lobbying efforts this year. 

But in Ottawa, Waterloo, Hamilton and London these candidates failed to win enough seats to alter the existing balance of power.

LGBTQ groups in Ottawa issued a joint statement last week about eight candidates it said were engaging in anti-trans rhetoric. None of those candidates were elected. One lost soundly to incumbent Lyra Evans, a transgender woman who has spoken out about transphobia in local politics.

WATCH | Anti-trans candidates were running for school board trustee positions:

Anti-trans candidates on the ballot in school board elections

1 month ago
Duration 2:34
Dozens of anti-trans candidates are running for school board trustee positions across Canada, and many are doing it with the help of conservative lobby groups.

The race for 11 seats on the Waterloo Region District School Board was also highly charged. Two incumbents had drawn attention from conservative supporters across the country for their opposition to anti-racism and gender-inclusion policies.

While both Mike Ramsay and Cindy Watson were re-elected, only one of their allies was successful. 

Scott Piatkowski, the outgoing chair of the board who was re-elected on Monday, said the results were an endorsement of the board's equity and diversity plan.

"We've been given a mandate to continue that effort," Piatkowski said. "The community heard the objections that were raised about the direction of the board. And they affirmed the direction that the board was going in." 

A small anti-woke coalition in Hamilton failed to win a seat on local school boards there. A pair of candidates in London, holding similar views, also failed to get elected.

Some success for candidates holding anti-trans views

But several social conservatives, who have expressed transphobic views or are tied to anti-trans groups, did win election on Monday. 

Paula Dametto-Giovannozzi won a seat on the Dufferin-Caledon Catholic School Board Trustee.

During the campaign, LGBT YouthLine — a national advocacy group — criticized Dametto-Giovannozzi for making "hateful comments" to members of a local pride group. On Dametto-Giovannozzi's Instagram page, she had posted to a link to a YouTube video that featured homophobic and transphobic commentary. 

Michael Del Grande took a medical leave in 2021 after being forced to apologize for making homophobic remarks. (Toronto Catholic District School Board)

She also promised to abolish Ontario's gender-inclusive sex education curriculum, even though trustees don't have the power to do so.   

Among the incumbents who were re-elected on Monday are Mike Del Grande of the Toronto Catholic District School, whose website boasted of endorsements from lobby groups that support anti-trans policies.

Del Grande took a medical leave in 2021 after being ordered to apologize for making homophobic remarks.

The Campaign Life Coalition, an anti-abortion group also known for its anti-LGBTQ views, has raised nearly $120,000 to help fund a legal challenge to the board decision that demanded Del Grande apologize.

Challenging the decision, the coalition says, is necessary to protect those "who dare to speak out against the transgender agenda." 

Linda Stone was re-elected as a trustee for the Durham District School Board. She had resigned briefly earlier this year following controversy over a series of transphobic comments she made on Twitter.

"Although woke, anti-parental rights leftists still retain majority control of many school boards, including key battle grounds like Ottawa and Waterloo, we're pleased that some of our endorsed school trustee candidates did win," Jack Fonseca, a spokesperson for the Campaign Life Coalition, said in an email to CBC News.

The results from Ontario's school board elections on Monday mirror those earlier this month in British Columbia.  A slate of nearly 30 trustee candidates ran on opposition to B.C.'s gender inclusive sex education curriculum, but only three were elected.

Manitoba will hold school board elections on Wednesday.

Clarifications

  • An earlier version of this story stated that Luanne Ashe's supporters claimed she had won a seat on the Grand Erie District School Board. In fact, voting results officialized after the story was published show she did not win a seat.
    Oct 27, 2022 10:29 AM ET

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jonathan Montpetit is a Senior Investigative Journalist with CBC News, where he covers social movements and democracy. You can send him tips at jonathan.montpetit@cbc.ca.

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