Education Minister Mitzie Hunter urges trustee Nancy Elgie to resign
Most trustees on the York Region District School Board also want Elgie to step down
The York Region school trustee who used the N-word to refer to a black parent needs to step down, Education Minister Mitzie Hunter said Tuesday.
Hunter joined a chorus of voices — including parents, school trustees and MPPs — urging trustee Nancy Elgie to resign.
"She should consider stepping aside, recognizing that the board has to move on with its work on behalf of all students in York Region," Hunter told reporters at Queen's Park. "Using language like that is unacceptable and should not be tolerated in our society and especially, in our school system."
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It's a change of tone from Hunter. Late last month, she declined to call on Elgie to step down. "As minister, it's not my role to tell an individual elected official to resign," Hunter said on Jan. 27.
Asked Tuesday why she hadn't urged Elgie to step aside sooner, Hunter pointed to her appointment of a panel to review allegations of systemic racism and Islamophobia in the school board.
"I've been very clear that I have concerns about the issues in York Region," Hunter said. "I want the work of the reviewers to continue and to provide their report and their recommendations as quickly as possible."
The call from the top education official in the province comes just hours after a string of York Region District School Board members called for Elgie to step down, during a fiery board meeting Monday night.
"I've said that since day one that she needs to do the right thing, and right now you've heard from the trustees around the table that that right thing is a resignation," said board chair Loralea Carruthers.
Elgie was not at the meeting but said in a statement delivered by her son that she would not resign. Instead, the 82-year-old offered a voluntary three to six-month sanction from her post.
In the statement, Elgie said she was heartsick after being heard allegedly using the N-word to refer to mother-of-three Charline Grant — something she claimed was the result of poor judgement caused by a brain injury.
"I used a horrible word even though it wasn't intentional," the statement read by Stewart Elgie said. "I know how hurtful that word is given the terrible legacy of racism in our society today… A suspension alone is not enough."
"So, resign!" some in the audience shouted.
Trustees do not have the authority to force out a fellow board member. The Education Act does allow trustees to launch a code of conduct complaint if a colleague commits a breach. Even if a breach is confirmed, the list of possible sanctions is limited to such consequences as censuring or barring a trustee from some meetings.
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Ontario school trustees are only obligated to step down if they win another elected office, take a job with a school board, or are convicted of an indictable criminal offence.