York board needs action plan on racism, Islamophobia, education minister demands

Letter sent to trustees Tuesday says continuing concerns means Mitzie Hunter wants evidence on what’s being done.

Toronto Star | November 22, 2016

Ontario’s education minister is giving the York Region school board two months to come clean on how it handled the investigation into a principal’s anti-Muslim Facebook posts, how it deals with incidents of racism and ending the secrecy around trustees’ travel.

In a strongly worded letter sent to all 12 York Region trustees on Tuesday, Education Minister Mitzie Hunter demanded a plan of action from them — by Jan. 13 — in light of ongoing concerns.

Hunter said she met with the chair and director earlier this month “because of escalating community concerns about transparency and accountability, particularly with respect to board spending on trustees’ international travel, and with the board’s responses to the community about its investigation into Islamophobic Facebook posts by a Markham principal.

“I have also received a growing number of letters and calls for action from individuals and groups who feel there is systemic racism that is not being adequately addressed within the board.”

But after the Nov. 10 meeting, “while there was some acknowledgement … that work needs to be done to regain the community’s trust, I continue to have concerns and, therefore, am making a specific request for information about the current issues and plans for how the board will move forward to address and resolve them.”

. . .

Amira Elghawaby of the National Council of Canadian Muslims said Hunter is asking the “same questions that community members have been asking for several months” — questions that “reflect the deep malaise that exists among various communities in YRDSB.”

“We hope that the minister’s intervention will lead to an outcome that assures families of the safety, well-being, and inclusion of all students in the York board,” she also said.

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