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Teachers file claim against York Catholic board, trustee for LGBTQ+ discrimination

Former board chair Frank Alexander alleged to have shared video via email attempting to link LGBTQ+ community with pedophilia
The York Catholic District School Board and trustee Frank Alexander are facing a legal claim from teachers over alleged discrimination.

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) is seeking damages for an email discriminating against the LGBTQ+ community allegedly sent by the previous chair of the York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB).

In a Nov. 17 legal filing to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, OECTA alleges then-board chair Frank Alexander sent a discriminatory email Sept. 9 to members of the YCDSB gender, sexuality and Catholic education committee. Alexander is alleged to have called for the committee to be disbanded and to have linked a video that attempts to connect the 2SLGBTQIA+ community with pedophilia.

The filing, made on behalf of a teacher who felt discriminated against, seeks $20,000 in damages from Alexander and the board. It also seeks remedies to address alleged systemic issues at the board.

“Alexander’s conduct in sending the above-described communications constitutes discrimination and harassment against the claimant teacher in employment on the basis of his sexual orientation and his association with the broader 2SLGBTQIA+ community,” the legal filing said.

The legal claim and its allegations have not been tested in a court of law. An OECTA representative who confirmed the legal filing said hearing dates still need to be scheduled.

YCDSB said it could not directly comment on the legal claim.

“The board has been made aware of a possible claim, but as with all human resource issues, it is not in a position to provide comment on a matter that may be the subject of a legal proceeding,” the board said in statement.

The claim describes that on Sept. 6, Alexander sent an email to all members of the YCDSB gender, sexuality and Catholic education committee, created in March 2022 with the express mandate of supporting staff who identify as 2SLBTQIA+. The message, sent to committee members, which includes trustees and OECTA members, called on the director of education to disband the committee.

The legal filing quotes an email allegedly from Alexander. In this quote, Alexander said he decided to send the email after viewing a video, also linked.

“To trustees, it’s time we took note of the potential danger that lurks within our board, and take action,” Alexander is quoted as saying in the legal filing.

The video allegedly attached to Alexander’s email included “disturbing, discriminatory, and harassing statements,” the filing said. The video suggests pedophiles infiltrated the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, that many in the community support pedophilia and that discussions about gender identity and related topics taking place in school environments are rooted in a pro-pedophilia doctrine.

The email was then forwarded by OECTA reps on the committee to the local OECTA executive, with the claimant teacher being part of that executive. The filing argues Alexander sent the email with the knowledge it would be shared with stakeholders outside the committee.

The filing said Alexander made a follow-up email the next day, Sept. 7. The filing quotes an email from Alexander in which he apologizes for and clarifies the content of the prior email.

The filing quotes Alexander as saying disbanding the committee is not within his purview. He is also quoted as saying he should have given pre-notification about sending the video.

“My reason for sending the video in such haste was the sense of urgency I felt, given its content and its implications for the well-being of our students,” he said. “I trust that it will now spark conversations within the committee, and across YCDSB. My apologies to everyone for my actions, and the tone and tenor of my earlier email.”

The filing said this does not amount to an apology for sending a video but was an apology for asking the committee be disbanded.

“This communication, if anything, simply reconfirms respondent Alexander’s adoption of the comments in the video he had sent previously,” the legal filing argues. “He does not, at any time, acknowledge the harmful, harassing, and discriminatory nature of the video and his related comments.”

The filing said the board has not taken any action to address Alexander’s conduct and that fellow trustees have not brought forward any motion against Alexander under the trustee code of conduct.

Just this week, five trustees voted for Alexander to remain chair of the board, with the now official Nov. 22 vote taking place a few days after this Nov. 17 legal filing. Alexander was ultimately ousted via a randomized draw after a vote between him and trustee Elizabeth Crowe was deadlocked 5-5. The vote was kept anonymous. Crowe is now the chair.

YCDSB has come under fire for its handling of 2SLGBTQIA+ issues, something the legal filing references. The board voted 6-4 in May not to raise a Pride flag for Pride Month, despite pressure and pleas from many staff and students supporting the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. This was preceded by months of competing delegations to the board, with some members of the public expressing hateful rhetoric to the community and complaining about safe space stickers that had emerged at schools.

The filing notes Alexander voted against flying a Pride flag, and that he said the board’s attention would be instead on making systemic changes to address the plight of students concerned by bullying.

In addition to $20,000 in damages sought — $10,000 each from Alexander and the board — the filing requests a series of measures to address broader systemic issues at the board, to be done at the board’s expense. These include hiring an independent expert consultant to provide mandatory training for all board members on discrimination and harassment, focusing on 2SLGBTQIA+ issues. The filing also seeks a consultant to audit the board’s human rights policies. It also calls for Alexander specifically to undergo human rights and inclusivity training.

It also asks that the board’s human rights and equity office create an advisory committee to address 2SLGBTQIA+, Indigenous and Black community issues.

NewmarketToday will follow up on this story as the legal case progresses and more information is made available.