Theresa McNicol defies York Catholic School Board

TORONTO – Unrepentant, scornful and dismissive. There is no better way to describe the contents of [trustee] Theresa McNicol’s letter to the York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) after it censured her and applied penalties for what it considered discriminatory behaviour and demeanour unbecoming of a trustee and hurtful to her colleagues of Italian descendancy. 

Five [former] trustees had sought reconciliation and/or redress since the beginning of 2022, much of it outside the public sessions of the Board meetings and involving the Director, the Chair and, through both, Minister Stephen Lecce and his Deputies at the Ministry. Those trustees (Cantisano, Giuliani, Iafrate, Marchese, Mazzotta) went so far as to withhold their presence at Board meetings and Committees to attempt to bring pressure to bear for some “change”.

They returned in September to approve the Budget so that students would not be deprived of resources required for their learning. Four of them declined to seek re-election. Trustee Iafrate did, was re-elected and pursued the avenues suggested by the Ministry through the Director

The outcomes saw the hiring of an investigator (JMJ) expert in the issues and the procedures of Boards, and no prior business dealings with the YCDSB. The ensuing Report vindicated the claims of the aggrieved trustees – they were being discriminated because of their Italian ethnicity.

As reported by the Corriere Canadese at the time, special Board meeting took place to discuss the findings and make determinations – if any – on the findings and the courses of actions.

In sum, the Board of trustees accepted the accuracy of the Report; voted to censure Trustee McNicol. On the Motion of the Chair, they voted to (i) bar her from attending future Board meetings, (ii) disqualify her from membership in any and all Committee meetings and (iii) disqualify her from voting at any meetings of Board or Committees, for the duration of the current mandate.

Trustees Cotton, Crowe, Wigston and, regrettably, Grella (of Italian origin) voted for McNicol.

The latter responded with an eleven-page epistle, authored by her lawyer, Raj Anand, and published as part of the Agenda for a Special Board meeting, October 26 – tomorrow (click HERE to read it).

McNicol, through Mr. Anand, does not come across as conciliatory. She claims “… [allegations] were made without jurisdiction by the Board and are null and void. Moreover, […] it would be an abuse of process at this point, for the Board and individual Trustees to attempt to resuscitate stale allegations […] through inappropriate and very public attempts to misuse legitimate Code of Conduct remedies against her.” (all emphasis added)

Timing and process, rather than substance and intent appear to be his/her focus. That will be for the Board to determine at Thursday’s meeting. For now, McNicol and lawyer challenge the Board’s authority in respect of the Trustee Code of Conduct, Equity and Inclusive Education Policy and Workplace Harassment.

Therefore, as they say in their letter: “It is […] unnecessary in this letter to address the purported conclusion of the investigator that there were any breaches of these three policies.” The conclusion(s) were in fact outlined and explained.

The Board meeting will be instructive, not only for McNicol and Anand.

Theresa McNicol (pic from YCDSB’s website)