No Time to Get Distracted

I feel like I’m having trouble keeping up right now…

On October 22, 2018, Elizabeth Tracey-Terrell was elected as Trustee to the York Region District School Board.  She won this election, despite having posted multiple xenophobic and anti-immigrant remarks against Lena Singh, the second (and only other) candidate for the position.

Not surprisingly, a lot of people were upset.

People wrote and called the school board.
People wrote and called the media.
Heck, people wrote and called me.

And then, last night, we heard the news that Elizabeth had stepped down from her position.

This was good news! The resignation didn’t address the issue of how Elizabeth was elected in the first place, but it did mean our children weren’t going to be represented by somebody who lacked the self-awareness to know her words and actions were harmful. Those comments were not only harmful to Lena, they were harmful to the entire community.

But then, today, we heard Elizabeth may not be stepping down after all.

Confused?  Don’t worry – you’re in good company.  For a minimal amount of clarification, you can read the follow-up stories by CBC and YorkRegion.com.

So, at the moment, we don’t really know what’s going to happen with the role of Trustee for East Gwillimbury and Stouffville. But that’s not even the most pressing issue anymore.

Regardless of ends who up sitting on the School Board, the fact remains that thousands of people voted for this woman. She was democratically elected. In East Gwillimbury, she was elected in a community where she barely even campaigned. Nobody I’ve spoken with received any of her literature. I didn’t see a single Elizabeth Tracey-Terrell sign through the entire election race.

Yet, people voted for her. This story isn’t about Elizabeth. It’s certainly not about Lena. It’s about how thousands of people, in two different municipalities, made a very important decision with some massively real consequences.

Voter turn out on October 22 was low. A lot of people don’t pay attention to the Trustee election.

So how does somebody who isn’t informed about either candidate’s platform (and hasn’t read any of the media surrounding Elizabeth’s comments) decide where to place their “x”?

Those who had been following the Trustee campaign likely did read the media articles detailing how Elizabeth suggested Lena prove her citizenship to the town. They probably did know that Elizabeth said “we need a trustee born in Canada.” Yet, some of those people still voted for Elizabeth. They did this despite her having little to no experience with the YRDSB or the public school system.

That is the issue. That is what we should be talking about. Yes, we should do what we can to minimize Elizabeth’s impact within the School Board, but there is obviously a lot of work that needs to be done to discover and understand the hidden xenophobia and racism in our community – the racism that’s harder to name because it’s not spoken out loud.

So let’s not get distracted with the drama of wondering whether Elizabeth Tracey-Terrell is staying or going. That looks like it could change on any given day. I’m starting to wonder what other pieces to this puzzle may be contributing to her erratic behaviour.

Instead, let’s spend some time figuring out how we got to this point in the first place, and what we need to do to make sure something like this election never happens again.


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