UPDATE: Peel school trustee apologizes for racially charged remark that acting chair denied was ever made 
Photos by Mansoor Tanweer

UPDATE: Peel school trustee apologizes for racially charged remark that acting chair denied was ever made 

After remaining silent and letting the Peel District School Board’s acting chair mislead the public in his presence, a trustee has apologized for a racially charged comment he made about a Brampton school.

William Davies was accused on Thursday at a public meeting of trustees of calling McCrimmon Middle School, "McCriminal", earlier this year. The school has a large number of Black and other racialized students, who make up the vast majority of its student body. After remaining silent throughout the heated meeting, when parents and students demanded answers from Davies and the board and an apology, the trustee responded to the Toronto Star.

On Wednesday, Davies responded by email to The Pointer, after he was asked if he did indeed make the "McCriminal" remark and if he understands why the comment was problematic. "As you know I am a new trustee, I am trying to follow process and procedures laid out in our code of conduct. In an attempt to try and de-escalate a very unfortunate miscommunication," he wrote. "As such I cannot at this time answer the questions." 


PDSB Trustee William Davies at Thursday's meeting


“I apologize again for the hurt that it has caused members of the Peel community….Although I never intended it as a racist comment, I have learned that the reference could be perceived as not only offensive, but racist.”

But what remains unclear is why acting Chair Sue Lawton shut down attempts by the community to get answers during Thursday’s meeting and misled them when she said he had never made the remark.

After members of the public demanded answers during the meeting, Lawton said, “We have no record … of that comment.” She then told another member of the public, who asked about Davies’ remark and what would be done about it, “I’m not going to answer that question … because it never happened.” Both responses drew jeers from the crowd. At the time, Lawton, and the board’s Director Peter Joshua, declined requests for comment.


Acting Chair Sue Lawton


Davies, meanwhile, remained silent when Lawton made the false claim to the public.

On Tuesday, Lawton responded to The Pointer, but she did not acknowledge Davies’ hurtful remark or her false denial that it had ever been made. 

“We believe a Trustee is filing a formal complaint with the Peel District School Board’s integrity commissioner. The board is required, as per their Trustee Code of Conduct, to review the findings of the integrity commissioner and will take all necessary action as recommended in the report,” Lawton stated in an email. It’s likely that the trustee she is referring to is David Green, who said during the meeting he would be filing a complaint to the integrity commissioner. Lawton added in her response to The Pointer that, “As Trustees, we should actively shine a positive light on the Peel District School Board, its schools, staff and students. We must be committed to equity and inclusion so that we can support the success and well-being of all Peel students.”

Coco Larain Veira was one of the members of the public who spoke at Thursday’s meeting. She spoke of her son, Jordon, who died last June at the age of 26 from an asthma attack. He was an alumnus of McCrimmon Middle School in Brampton, the subject of a fallout between Peel Region’s Black community and the Peel District School Board  (PDSB).

“I worked at McCrimmon Middle School 10 years ago. My son was also a student at McCrimmon Middle School with his two sisters, and back then it was referred to as McCriminal,” Veira told the PDSB Trustee Board at Thursday night’s meeting.

Not far behind Veira at the meeting sat several members of Peel Region’s Black community. They were there to demand a written apology as well as hear the board’s response to the comment made by Davies, trustee for Brampton Wards 2 and 6.

Davies provided no comment during the meeting, nor did he make himself available to the media for clarification. He stepped out of a side door in the board chambers and left the premises. 

After Lawton made her claim on Thursday, trustee Kathy McDonald did not buy that there was no record of the incident and named her colleague, Davies, during the meeting as having committed the offense. She said she has repeatedly raised the matter for discussion but has been stonewalled each time. 


Trustee Kathy McDonald


“I don’t understand how you can say that you have no record of it,” McDonald said. “Because it is extremely humiliating and insulting for me as a Black woman to have somebody call a school that has a lot of [Black kids, McCriminal].” 

The meeting began with Lawton, who was acting chair as Stan Cameron was absent due to a personal leave, rejecting a delegation from one of the members of the Black community to speak about the matter. 

“I did answer the email stating that the five days business notice was not adhered to,” Lawton told the board while addressing why the delegation was rejected.

Trustee Nokha Dakroub countered: “Wouldn’t it become an issue of equality of access?”

“We have certainly done this before,” Lawton interrupted Dakroub.

Green, whose ward includes McCrimmon Middle School, disagreed. “Over my 16 years of service, we have never turned away a delegation. We have a bylaw, we have procedures in place but we have never turned away one.” Lawton attempted to cut Green off as well.

What followed, during the public question period near the end of the meeting, was a long line of people sharing their stories of institutional racism, demanding a plan for what is to be done and ultimately getting no answers.

While the temperature in the chambers was dialed up — Veira said she believed she had seen microaggressions from some of the trustees — she called all the parties together in the interest of dialogue. “If we can put aside our anger, which is what my son would say, and deal with how we are dropping the ball?” she asked the board.

“Yes,” said Lawton. “It would be wonderful if we can all come together. You’re right, this is a difficult venue to discuss. We can’t really discuss the way it’s setup,” Lawton told Veira. 

One by one, several members of the community stepped up to the podium demanding answers. Lawton provided no solutions, no reassurances, no movers on council. Telling the speakers to go to the integrity commissioner with their concerns became her refrain for the evening.

Ryan Elcock, vice-chair of the Brampton Community and Economic Empowerment Network, asked that the board undergo “anti-Black-racism training” as well provide a written apology to the students of McCrimmon Middle School. He began his inquiry by relating a story about how a teacher, whom he referred to as Voldemort, told him he would “not graduate high school. He was right. I did not graduate high school. I graduated high school as an Ontario Scholar.” 

“Do you see us in chains?,” 18-year-old Colin-Winston Browne asked Lawton. “We look up to you. We respect you. We want to be like all of you. How can a board member call a school McCriminal?” 

Lawton chose to only answer the chains question — “No” — and refused to explain the board’s future plans. As Browne walked away from the podium, one supporter of his in the audience asked rhetorically, “Can she be impeached?”  


Trustee David Green  


Trustee Green told the board he will file a complaint to the integrity commissioner himself, drawing applause from the audience.

“I won’t be calling out names right now because it won’t be appropriate to do,” Green said. “But when I file the complaint with the commissioner, because I am aware of the situation, I will be pointing [him] out.” 


Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @mansoortanweer

Submit a correction about this story