School trustee steps down, saying use of racial slur was 'deeply embarassing'
Sandie Benitah, CTV Toronto
Published Friday, February 17, 2017 4:28PM EST
Last Updated Friday, February 17, 2017 9:45PM EST
A school trustee who referred to a black parent as a N----- has announced she is resigning, three months after the incident took place.
Nancy Elgie admitted to making the comment in the hallway outside a public school board meeting in November, 2016.
Her children wrote in the Toronto Star on February 7 that their mother was trying to identify a parent that was profiled in a news article about racism in schools. The article talked about children being called the N-word. As she tried to explain herself to another school trustee, she stumbled over her words, her children said, and it sounded like she had made the racial slur herself.
Though Elgie apologized, she didn’t step down and calls for her resignation from her peers have been relentless.
On Friday, Elgie posted a video on YouTube to discuss her “terrible mistake” and how she is “mortified” by what transpired.
“I apologized to the parent involved and colleagues as soon as I could and want to reiterate that apology,” she said.
Elgie said she was asked not to speak about the incident because of the board’s investigation into the matter.
“Some have questioned why I didn’t resign immediately,” she said. “It was not about protecting my position and I don’t plan to run again. The main concern was the lesson to students if the punishment was punitive and not restorative.”
She said she has decided to step down to allow trustees “to move forward and allow a process of healing to begin.”
Elgie, who has been on medical leave, said she has agonized over how she could have said something so terrible.
“I have agonized over this. You can apologize but it is still deeply embarrassing.”
She was first elected as a trustee for the region of Georgina in 2000 and has served ever since.
Her children told The Star that Elgie had suffered a concussion in October 2016, just a month before she uttered the offensive word in a conversation. They said struggling to find words is a common symptom of a concussion.
In Friday's video, Elgie said her head injury is no excuse for what transpired.
"I've come to realize that while my head injury might help explain why I mixed up my words, it doesn't excuse it," she said.
On Wednesday, Premier Kathleen Wynne was asked about the situation and if she too would push for the woman’s resignation.
Wynne said the problem of racism went further than just this one incident.
“I think this is about a much bigger question,” she told reporters at Queen’s Park. “It’s about a question of the culture at the board. I think it’s important that we recognize that, from what we are hearing, there may be some concerns about systemic racism at the board. That is a huge concern.”
The YRDSB has been remained under a cloud of allegations of racism and Islamophobia over the past year.
The board’s head of equity, Cecil Roach, wrote in an open letter last year that he had been sidelined when trying to deal with inclusivity complaints. He referred specifically to an instance where a Markham principal was accused of posting Islamophobic images on her Facebook account.
Last month, Education Minister Mitzie Hunter appointed two outside reviewers to investigate the board in order to “regain public confidence in the school board.”
With files from Rachael D'Amore