The pressure is mounting on Toronto’s catholic school board to publicly release a report on homophobic comments made by a trustee after the board declined to discipline him.
“We all see what he did, we heard what he said. It’s like someone going through a red light. We know what the outcome should be. This is wrong,” says Catholic school teacher Paolo De Buono.
The incident occurred last year at a TCDSB board meeting, where the board was discussing updates to its code of conduct that would have included terms like gender expression and gender identity. Scarborough-North York trustee Michael Del Grande introduced a motion likening LGBTQ diversity to a series of offensive and criminal acts.
The TCDSB investigated, and the board of trustees concluded Del Grande, who later pulled his motion, did not breach the code of conduct.
Complainants like De Buono want to know how that decision was reached and he is not alone. Another Catholic school board trustee is calling on the report the board based its decision on to be made public, as are members of provincial parliament and the minister of Education, Stephen Lecce.
The Ministry of Education says Lecce has been clear with the TCDSB, asking them to conduct a full investigation and release the report publicly.
In a statement, the ministry added that Lecce doesn’t have the authority to remove the trustee from his position.
“I have spoken out unequivocally and strongly against that trustee at Toronto Catholic, saying that it was unacceptable and urging the board to commission an investigation and we look forward to accountability for those students who have been offended by the comments made by that trustee,” Lecce said in question period Oct. 27. It’s unclear at this point if the minister or his department has actually seen the report.
“This is a real matter of transparency,” says De Buono. “We deserve to know that the decision was made based on what was in the report. Otherwise, we are left with the thought that perhaps they decided not to decide according to what was in the report.”
In a statement to CityNews, the board’s chair said the report was considered at a private meeting of the board of trustees, as allowed under Ontario’s Education Act.
“On the matter you reference, the Board of Trustees, in a public session of the board in August 2020, made the determination that Trustee Del Grande did not breach the Trustee Code of Conduct,” said Joseph Martino. “The investigation report into Trustee Del Grande’s conduct was considered at a private meeting of the Board of Trustees as permitted under the Education Act. Matters considered in a private session of the Board remain in private unless the Board directs otherwise.”
Etobicoke Catholic trustee Markus de Domenico says that report should be made public. He said he will be calling for the report to be released at the next board meeting on Wednesday.
“We are a publicly funded Catholic board,” says de Domenico. “The public gets the message when you’re like that, when you’re private, they think something nefarious is going on. I don’t want that impression.”
Kathleen Wynne, Ontario’s former premier, has called trustee Del Grande’s comments vile. She is pressing Lecce to intervene and make the report public.
She added, when “people who are privileged men in positions of authority are still able to espouse hateful ideas with impunity, we all lose.”