Dodging racist bullets at the York Catholic District School Board

TORONTO – York Region has the highest concentration of people of Italian heritage anywhere in Canada. More specifically, in the western half of the region, in the city of Vaughan, approximately 40% of the residents identified themselves as Italian in the 2016 census. That is approximately 130,000 of the 330,000 inhabitants. 

If one believes the political representatives from Vaughan, the city is the fastest growing municipality in Ontario. The numbers just stated will only go up.

Not everyone is happy. Not at the York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB). Italians (not the only ones who prefer a Catholic based education system) send their children to the YCDSB in overwhelming numbers. Their second choice appears to be private schools, anywhere in the GTA.

The YCDSB, as an institution, appears to have a problem with that clientele, for two reasons. First, some of its trustees emit an openly, decidedly anti-Italian bias, manifestly towards their colleagues on the Board.

A third party investigator, retained after more than a year of wrangling, manipulation, and slights of hand between the Director, the Deputy Minister, the Associate Deputy Minister, the Board and the Minister himself, found that trustee Theresa McNichol had indeed exhibited uncalled for discriminatory conduct against five of her colleagues for the singular reason that they were/are “Italian”.

At a meeting of the Board on October , 2023. It was resolved that she would be censured and that the sanctions would include barring from attendance and voting at Committees and Board meetings for the duration of the mandate.

Carol Cotton and Elizabeth Crowe, two trustees representing areas of York where Italians are not the prevailing majority, supported McNicol. Jennifer Wigston and Angela Grella (an “Italian”) also supported McNicol. They are elected from an area of Vaughan where the electorate is overwhelmingly Italian.

By law, McNicol had 15 days to ask for reconsideration of the decision. She did not feel the need to apologize to colleagues, the board or the community. Her lawyers did not counsel that, intimating that she might take legal action instead, if the Board did not lift the censure and the sanctions. The letter is published on the Board website.

On Tuesday, after a closed-door meeting, at 5:30 some trustees emerged to vote publicly on a revised motion. It seemed to this observer that the deft hand of the Chair, Frank Alexander, hand attempted to structure a modification that might appeal to all who truly want to keep the best interests of the YCDSB front and center.

He did not convince the trustees named above, even as the peace offering was accepted by trustees Barbieri, Di Meo, Iafrate and Saggese who added their consent to his proposal that Mic Nicol be allowed at full Board but be barred from Committees as of November 8. We will elaborate the decision(s) in subsequent analyses.

The other person present at the meeting was a representative of OECTA. He seemed to be union president Mike Totten (we have not been formally introduced). He is no friend of catholic education, nor of the YCDSB, judging from his activist propensity to trigger calls to the police to escort parents from the building in this last year.