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Ontario MPPs urged to ensure woke school boards are fair and transparent

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In a procedure resembling a Court of Star Chamber, trustee Mike Ramsay was suspended by the Waterloo District School Board after a secret investigation by an unnamed “Integrity Commissioner”. (Screencap: CTV Kitchener)

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(Recently Michael Teper, a Toronto parent who has written for theJ.ca in the past, sent an open letter to a pair of recently-elected MPP’s – Stan Chow (Willowdale) and Michael Kerzner (York Centre). He asked them to address recent investigative activity by Ontario school boards into other trustees and staff.) 

Dear Mr. Kerzner and Mr. Cho —

First of all, congratulations on your election/re-election as Ontario MPPs!

Now, to business.

The operation of school board trustee “integrity commissioners” is out of control.

In the Education Act, there is no mention of any such office or officer. This is in contrast to the Municipal Act and the City of Toronto Act, which does set up the office of a municipal Integrity Commissioner, gives that person certain powers, and governs access to their files.

When a school board trustee supposedly breaches the board’s code of trustee conduct, the Education Act says the board shall make inquiries into the matter and determine whether a breach has occurred. Some boards, such as the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), have chosen to pass by-laws establishing an integrity commissioner and appointing such a person to carry out this function.

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Last December, the TDSB Integrity Commissioner issued a report declaring that Trustee Alexandra Lulka had breached the code of conduct on account of some social media messages she posted about the mail outs of a staff member. The report was rejected by the TDSB by a vote of 10–7, but there are lingering questions about the objectivity of the report and the so-called “independent investigator” that the TDSB Integrity Commissioner engaged. The name of the complainant was also withheld.

There are also open questions about whether the Integrity Commissioner’s files are discoverable under the Municipal Freedom of Information Act.

At least in Trustee Lulka’s case, the TDSB Integrity Commissioner’s report was made public, and there was a genuine debate about the report at a public TDSB meeting where Trustee Lulka was given the opportunity to speak to the board in her own defense.

Fast forward to this week at the Waterloo District School Board (WRDSB).

Mike Ramsay, one of the WRDSB trustees, was censured and denied further participation in committee meetings until September 30. He was also denied participation at the next board meeting. In Trustee Ramsay’s case: (a) the complainant’s identity is a secret (b) the Integrity Commissioner’s report is a secret, (c) the Integrity Commissioner’s identity is a secret (d) the school board’s debate on the Integrity Commissioner’s report is a secret, and (e) the reasons for (a), (b), (c)  and (d) are secret. To top it off, Trustee Ramsay was not allowed to publicly address the board to answer this accusation.

In other words, the WRDSB effectively expelled one of its elected members for allegedly breaching the code, without telling the public how or why.

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Clearly, this is not acceptable in a free and democratic society. Trustees accused of breaching a code of conduct must have the right to publicly present their case. The accusation must be available to the public.

If there is to be an integrity commissioner, the role of this person needs to be written into the law and there needs to be clarity in the law as to what documents generated in the investigation are to be made public, either automatically or through the freedom of information laws.

There also needs to be some consistency and uniformity across the province about trustee codes of conduct. There is a regulation (246/18) that requires every board to adopt a code of conduct, but the regulation is completely silent as to the content of that code.

So the boards make it up for themselves, and the effect seems to be that the boards are weaponizing these codes, and the investigation mechanism, to silence elected trustees unpopular with their colleagues or board staff.

So here’s the legislative/regulatory project:

a) bring in some standards, uniformity, and fairness to the codes of conduct, so that they are not abused so as to become instruments for political vendettas

b) bring in some standards for the role of school board integrity commissioners, so as to assure their qualifications and objectivity

c) bring in some standards for the transparency of the investigation process and the ensuing reports and board debates, including how these standards fit in with provincial freedom of information law. The public has the right to know why an elected trustee is restrained from exercising the full powers of their office.

Best regards,

Michael Teper

Michael Teper is an Ontario lawyer, TDSB graduate, and parent of several current and graduated TDSB students. He attests that he is not and never has been an employee or independent contractor of any organization mentioned in this article, and has neither received nor will receive a fee for writing this article from anyone.

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Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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