Toronto

Principal's online posts on burkas, Islam lead education minister to step in

Education Minister Mitzie Hunter will meet with the leadership of the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) after one of their principals posted links on Facebook that some parents and students say are offensive to Muslims.

Minister Mitzie Hunter will meet with York school board to discuss handling of 'racism'

Education Minister Mitzie Hunter confirmed Tuesday that she was planning to meet with leadership from the York Region District School Board in the next few days. (CBC)

Education Minister Mitzie Hunter will meet with the leadership of the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) after one of its principals shared links on Facebook that some parents and students say are offensive to Muslims.

"It's very important to me that parents know that issues of racism are not tolerated in our schools," said Hunter, who confirmed on Tuesday the meeting would take place "in the next few days."

The posts, shared on the Facebook page of Ghada Sadaka, an elementary school principal at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Public School in Markham, were pulled down after complaints surfaced in September.

Since then, anger has mounted among parents and community members over what they believe is a lack of transparency in the YRDSB's handling of the issue.

The school board confirmed to CBC News in October that an investigation had taken place, but declined to disclose the results. In an email, Trustee Billy Pang said that because the probe was of "a personnel nature," he is not in a position to share any details.

That prompted one concerned parent to say that she felt "stonewalled" by the process.

Open letter to Hunter asks her to 'intervene'

Hunter's plan to meet with York board leadership comes after she received an open letter signed by community leaders, community members and the Ontario Federation of Labour.

The letter criticizes the school board's refusal to share the results of its investigation into Sadaka's posts, saying that a "culture of fear" is growing inside of the YRDSB and arguing that the posts are part of a larger problem with race in the school board.

The letter ends with a request that Hunter and Associate Education Minister Indira Naidoo-Harris "please intervene."

York Region District School Board Trustee Nancy Elgie has apologized after allegedly using a racial slur to refer to a black parent at a November meeting of the board. (York Region District School Board)

York board says meeting has been in the works for months

Licinio Miguelo, a spokesperson for the YRDSB, said that they have yet to confirm a meeting with the minister, but that his board first requested to meet with Hunter months ago, when she was appointed.  

"We would welcome the opportunity to meet with her," he said, declining to confirm if Hunter's office had been in touch with the board in the last two days or discuss the specifics of what would be talked about when the meeting takes place.

"If she were to ask us questions, we would certainly answer," he said.

Facebook posts discussed burkas, refugees, Islam

The original complaints were sparked by several links shared on Sadaka's page, including one that suggested that burkas should be banned in Europe since bikinis were banned in Muslim countries and a post that promised to tell "the truth about refugees."

One of the posts that led a student at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Public School in Markham to complain about principal Ghada Sadaka. (Facebook)

In another post, Sadaka shared a CNN video about Islam in Britain, adding her own comment: "This has to go viral. Share and post! Oh Lord."  

At the time the story broke, Sadaka told the Toronto Star: "I appreciate your questions, but for any further information you will have to go through the board office.".

The Ontario College of Teachers sent CBC News a link in late October confirming that Sadaka was still a member in good standing, and had not had her credentials revoked.