Sunday, March 9, 2008

PCAP Statement - Racist KPRD School Board Trustee

On Wednesday March 5th PCAP participated in a press conference organized by the Community Race Relations Committee of Peterborough. Twelve local activists and community leaderes condemned Gordon Gilchrist, KPRD School Board trustee for Cobourg and Hamilton and Alnwick/Haldimand townships, calling for his resignation.


To read Gilchrist's Statement for yourself CLICK HERE

To read letters of condemnation CLICK HERE


PCAP Statement:

Dear Board of Trustees and Diane Llloyd,

PCAP is a direct action anti-poverty group made up of poor people and their allies, and we are committed to challenging policies that affect poor, homeless and working communities and speaking out against all forms of injustice.

We are pleased to join voices here today in solidarity with other groups and organizations expressing outrage and concern about Trustee Gordon Gilchrist's racist, anti-immigrant public statements of last week. We also thank the Trustees and the Equity and Diversity Committee for applying censure to Mr. Gilchrist for violating the public trust.

At PCAP, however, we feel that further action is now required, and it is urgent. It is simply unacceptable that Mr. Gilchrist be permitted to continue on in his position as a servant of the public. His racist and anti-immigrant statements have clearly demonstrated that he is unworthy of the position. Indeed it is an abomination of the position to call him a Trustee when he has so clearly violated all of the basic principles of public trusteeship defined in the policy.

Statistics on racism in education have long revealed a pattern of deep inequality for racialized students in Canada's school system. As the Colour of Poverty Campaign so clearly shows, "Racialized students face discrimination in schools. They are often streamed into lower level non-academic programs, and unfairly targeted for expulsion. Children from poor families are half as likely to attend university as those who are well-off, and some racialized groups have very low rates of high school completion." Furthermore, "they have few teachers and other role models from racialized communities who they see working within the various fields of education." To make matters worse, aboriginal students and immigrant students of colour living in poverty bear the brunt of inequality in the education and all of Canada's institutions. For PCAP, we recognize the racialization of poverty as a serious problem in this country when "32% of children in racialized families, and 47% of children in recent immigrant families in Ontario live in poverty". That is a national outrage.

We have a responsibility to acknowledge these deep inequalities when they occur in our communities. We have placed the trust in our Board to take action against members of the public like Trustee Gilchrist who clearly contributie to this problem.

He has devalued diversity, created a climate of hostility towards racialized immigrants, denigrated inclusiveness, deployed stereotypes, contributed to a climate of mistrust between the Board and the diverse communities it represents (especially aboriginal and racial/ethnic communities), violated the Human Rights Code, and compromised the Board's commitment to valuing racial diversity. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

PCAP supports the Board in taking more definitive action to protect ALL students and families - this means recognizing that the effects of racism will continue unless Mr. Gilchrist is removed.

Removing Mr. Gilchrist, however, is not enough. PCAP also feels that a deeper reckoning needs to occur in order to fully restore both the broader public trust and the safety of immigrants and people of colour in the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board (KPRDSB). This is particularly urgent for those who also face poverty. It is disturbing to know that someone with such deeply racist views has remained in this position for almost 8 years. How did this obvious violation go undetected or unreported by so many, for so long? At minimum then, this incident calls for the need for a full equity audit in which anti-racism is central. This incluides the development and implementation of procedures for identifying and addressing both individual and systemic racism at all times.

The time for definitive action is now. We applaud the Board of Trustees actions so far, but it is now time for the next step. It is time to put the needs of the most vulnerable members of the public at the centre and restore their trust in the local education system. It is time for Mr. Gilchrist to be removed, and it is time for a full equity audit to be taken and acted upon.


For some of the news coverage, copy and paste these links into your web address bar: