In Ottawa, the Municipal Elections are on Monday, October 24. To see the full list of all the candidates running for all the different positions, click here. As part of this, we are to vote for our School Board Trustee. I know that most people don’t even bother voting for School Board Trustee, but the more I learn about it, the more important I believe it is that we do. Here are two reasons why:

1. Education Reform

Our schools are in desperate need of reform. Our education system is not working for the majority of students or teachers. We could be doing so much more with the time that our kids spend in school – we could be doing so much more to inspire them, to support them, to help them feel connected. We need School Board Trustees who are courageous and forward thinking and willing to push for the changes that we need to make.

2. Stopping Anti-LGBTQ+ Candidates

Canada’s Anti-Hate Network has raised concerns that far-right organizations are pushing “anti-woke” candidates with anti-LGBTQ+ beliefs to run in order to influence policies in Ontario’s public schools. You can read more about this here.

There are a number of candidates running who seem to be making anti-LGBTQ+ beliefs and their opposition to “gender ideology” their entire platform. You can read more about this here and here.

I am particularly infuriated by that last article, as the transphobic School Board Trustee Candidate interviewed here chose to stand in front of the beautiful mural that I helped create at Robert E. Wilson Public School, a mural that is all about love, community, inclusion and kindness, and he is using it as a backdrop to push his platform that is the opposite of all that.

And then there is “A Blueprint for Canada”, which is an organization that claims to be “a group of parents and citizens running for school board trustee positions across Ontario to remove extreme political ideology (CRT and Gender Ideology) from our public schools.” They claim that they “reject the influence of the extreme left and the extreme right in favour of moderate centrist policies which benefit all Canadians” and then they list their policy positions – which are mostly anti-trans and against all the good anti-racism work that has been going on in our schools. You can read all their policy positions here.

With confidence, I am sharing this list of candidates to not vote for as put together by Horizon Ottawa:

We need to make sure that these candidates do not win their zones and we need to vote for strong candidates in all other zones who will be willing to stand up for all of our kids. We need to show all of our LGBTQ+ and BIPOC youth that we are here for them, that we are in their corner.

What Does a School Board Trustee Do?

You have the high level description from the OCDSB website:

Trustee Roles and Responsibilities – The responsibilities of school boards are set out in Ontario’s Education Act which states that every school board shall:

• promote student achievement and well-being, a positive school climate that is inclusive and accepting of all pupils, and prevention of bullying;
• ensure effective stewardship of the board’s resources;
• deliver effective and appropriate education programs to its pupils;
• develop and maintain policies and organizational structures that, monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of policies developed by the board in achieving the board’s goals and the efficiency of the implementation of those policies;
• develop a multi-year plan aimed at achieving the boards’ goals;
• annually review the multi-year plan with the board’s Director of Education or the supervisory officer acting as the board’s Director of Education; and
• monitor and evaluate the performance of the board’s Director of Education, or the supervisory officer acting as the board’s Director of Education

But I found those words mostly empty. I wanted to find concrete examples for what a School Board Trustee does have the ability to vote on and make changes to. I came up with this list of examples …

School board trustees vote on issues that directly affect the student experience, such as:

• the School Resource Officers Program
• the implementation of public health measures in schools like school closures and mask and vaccination mandates
• student dress code
• the availability of free menstrual products in all school washrooms
• the flying of the Pride Flag at schools during Pride Month
• decisions on busing to and from schools
• when and where to buy property
• when a school should close
• changing school boundaries

These are actual on the ground issues that directly impact all of our kids – they affect their feelings of safety, security, connection, whether they feel seen, heard and loved. It is so important that we vote for a candidate that will continually make decisions that are for our children and not against them.

Resources To Help You Learn More About the Candidates

I did a fair amount of research into this topic to make sure that I knew who I was going to vote for. I wanted to share the resources that I found helpful here with you.

(1) FAIR Ottawa Survey of School Board Trustee Candidates

This is a fantastic report to read to learn more about our OCDSB School Board Trustee Candidates. It is organized by zone, lists which candidates are running and which ones participated in the survey, and reports their answers without any editing. You can read it here.

(2) Horizon Ottawa’s School Board Trustee Endorsements

Horizon Ottawa has given their list of eight school board trustee candidates for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board that they endorse. This list was created in collaboration with the Rideau Students Union – an organization consisting of high school students advocating for progressive policy at the school board level.

I love everything about this. I love that Horizon Ottawa is letting the students lead and giving them a platform to share what is important to them. We don’t do enough of this. We, as adults, talk a lot about issues that affect our youth, and make decision on issues that affect them, without asking them what they want, what they think we need to do.

Read the press release about Horizon Ottawa’s School Board Trustee endorsements here.

Read the actual endorsements here.

Additional Resources for Further Learning

In case you wanted to delve even deeper into this whole situation, as I did, here are other resources that I found helpful:

(1) A Children’s Rights Framework for Asking School Board Trustee Candidates Important Questions

From the article:

Much of the discourse surrounding schools and education, by the far-right an​d other anti-equity figures, frames the issues within school communities as a matter of “parental rights.” The concept of “parental rights” is not grounded in the Charter: “in Canada, the approach has been guided by the common law and various statutes in which the guiding principle is the best interests of the child.” “There is no basis for this Court to interpret parental wishes as having priority. Ultimately, the best interests of the child are paramount.”

The article then lists actual rights that children have from the Canada-ratified United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child:

* Children have the right to protection from harm, including “all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse.”
* Children have the right to free expression, including the “freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds.”
* Children have the right to an education that is “child-centred, child-friendly and empowering.”
* Children have the right to privacy.
* Children have the right to the highest attainable standard of health.
* Children who belong to religious or linguistic minority groups, or who are Indigenous, have the right to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion, and to use their own language, in community with other members of their group.

These are important points to have in mind as we are reading the different platforms of the candidates. We can ask ourselves which candidates are speaking for the rights of our children.

You can read the whole article here.

(2) Meet the Ottawa school board trustee fighting against the anti-trans movement

There is one story in this article from Lyra that breaks my heart and reinforces why representation is so important – reinforces the importance of all of our kids needing to see a place for them to be their authentic selves in their future:

One of the most impactful interactions she’s experienced as a trustee came in the form of a message over social media from a teenager in Alberta. The teen mentioned seeing an article about Evans becoming the first trans school board trustee in Canada. After sharing the piece with their mother—who responded positively—the teen said they felt safe enough to come out to her. “That has stuck with me, and will probably stick with me until the end of my life,” says Evans. “Those are the kinds of role models I did not have growing up.”

You can read the whole article here.

(3) Confronting and Preventing Hate in Canada’s School Boards

You can read this article here.

(4) There’s An Anti-LGBTQ+ And Anti-Abortion Lobby Group Setting Conservative Party Policy

You can read this article here.

(5) What is a school board trustee and why should I vote for them during the municipal elections?

You can read this article here.

My Vote

If you have gotten through all this an you are wondering who I am voting for, I am putting up my virtual lawn sign for Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth. You can read more about her here.