English Articles

Conduct reported, investigated,
condemned: resign
to preserve some dignity

TORONTO – In a forty-six (46) page Report, Investigator Jennifer MacKenzie of JMJ Workplace Investigation Law, LLP found – unequivocally – that Trustee McNicol “engaged in discriminatory and harassing conduct towards the Complainants on the basis of their Italian ancestry and [their] ethnic origin, and that the conduct constitutes a breach of [i] the trustee Code of Conduct, [ii] the Board’s Equity and Inclusive Education Policy and [iii] the Board’s Workplace Harassment Policy.”

The Report was delivered on a “Privileged and Confidential” basis to the York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) in response to a request to investigate “pursuant to the Board’s policies”. JMJ Workplace Investigation Law had been retained, on or about May 17, 2023, pursuant to a resolution passed by the Board at its April 25, 2023, meeting.

Trustee Maria Iafrate had filed the originating complaint. In recognition of the fact that four former trustee/colleagues of Trustee Iafrate had expressed “similar concerns of discrimination” leading up to the resolution, the Investigator “collectively, along with Trustee Iafrate, referred to [them] as the Complainants”.

In fact, the five trustees felt so strongly about their concerns that they contemplated resigning en masse. As reported in the Corriere Canadese at the time, the five boycotted Committee and Board Meetings to drive home the point and to secure a public apology from Trustee McNicol. It was not forthcoming. The five trustees (Cantisano, Giuliani, Iafrate, Marchese and Mazzotta) targeted by McNicol returned to Board and Committee meetings to ensure passage of time-sensitive reports to the Ministry and Parents.

Trustee Iafrate had already registered as a candidate for the 2022 election when the group decided to not contest the election. She pursued the complaints from within the Board until April 25, 2023, when she secured the passage of a resolution to investigate. The results were posted on the Board Agenda for discussion and action on September 26 (tomorrow).

They could not be more damning.

Investigator Mackenzie is thorough, methodical, deferential when necessary and objective to a fault. Her conclusions would seem unimpeachable. McNicols’ “justifications” were unconvincing, even when she addressed the matter of seeking police security at a Board meeting; not because she thought they (the “Italian trustees”) might be tied to “organized crime”, rather because she was ‘describing a group of people who had ‘caused a lot of grief in life’”.

When she reviewed all the evidence and varying perspective of evidence brought forward, together with the credibility of the participants, MacKenzie concluded that McNicol’s behaviour was deliberate and intentional. “there was no justifiable reason for Trustee McNicol [to describe her colleagues in the context of their ethnicity or ancestry, other than to] annoy, tauntand/or mock her colleagues”.

Any reasonable person would find this deplorable. The fact that McNicol, “knew or ought to have known” that her behaviour was inconsistent with that demanded by Board Policy or permited by the Human Rights Code. The evidence reviewed by MacKenzie pointed to this behaviour behaviour as “deliberate” and “repetitive”, designed to “offend”, “harass” and “discriminate”.

The evidence emerging from the investigation suggested that an overwhelming percentage of students registered in the YCDSB are of Italian background. Four trustees felt so strongly about the dignity accruable to them as individuals and as members of an identifiable group in a Catholic school system that they were willing to refrain from serving in elected office any longer for fear their participation could suggest they might condone McNicol’s behaviour.

Now that the investigation has given credence to their claims, McNicol should attempt to save whatever shred of dignity she might have and Resign.

From the left: Jennifer MacKenzie (www.workplace-investigation.ca), Theresa McNicol (Twitter), Maria Iafrate (www.ycdsb.ca)

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