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Does Modern Racism And Systemic Racism Lurk At The Toronto Catholic School Board?

Dear Editor:

After reading your article — “Jeffers, Mark Leave Toronto Catholic School Board’s African Canadian Committee Over Differences” — on pridenews.ca, dated April 23, 2021, I wish to respond, by providing you with the definitions of modern racism, systemic racism and the facts to support my opinion.

Modern Racism Definition:
“Characterized by helping people of color, based on an assumption that they cannot help themselves; setting them up to fail; being patronizing or condescending; helping people of color in such a way that it limits their ability to help themselves. This ”help does not help” is often motivated out of guilt or shame”.

Systemic Racism Definition:
“The collective failure of an organization to provide an appropriate and professional service to people, because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behavior that amount to discrimination through prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness, and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people.”

When a problem exists it is only appropriate and logical for the individuals affected, to work together, as a group, and rectify the situation. Persecuting individuals, because of their ethnic or cultural background is an unacceptable practice.

As a White individual, who pays taxes, like Black people, I really care about the future of our multicultural city. Systemic discrimination should not exist in today’s society, especially at the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB), a Catholic based institution.

Systemic racism will continue to spread in the TCDSB, when the people in charge, do not do their jobs or use ignorance as their excuse to not be held accountable for their actions. When one person suffers, we all suffer.

The TCDSB has the sole responsibility to stop systemic racism, as required under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act. As always, everyone looks up to the TCDSB Director of Education to resolve everything. Acting in an impartial and judicial manner, without prejudice, one would expect nothing less of his actions to benefit all.

Unfortunately, only a handful of individuals in today’s society are able to realize that their capabilities are limited, even when applying these qualities. It is important to understand the inner workings of the TCDSB, before one can formulate an educated opinion of what is stopping its Director of Education from eliminating systemic racism.

The TCDSB Director of Education is often restricted in being effective, simply because of bad decisions and the restrictions put on him by the TCDSB Trustees, themselves. The TCDSB Trustees hire the TCDSB Director of Education to carry out their recommendations and directives, so they are in charge, and the present situation of systemic racism in the TCDSB falls on their shoulders.

Dr. Brendan Browne, the current TCDSB Director of Education, was hired from outside of the board, based on his qualifications and past performance. In this case, it was not as an entitlement of succession, a process in which teachers are promoted, over time, to the upper managerial positions at the TCDSB. This process has been used, unsuccessfully, for many years, but is not the answer to solve the systemic racism in the TCDSB, as time has proven.

Once you understand this, then the next question to ask yourself is, what caused Kirk Mark and Ken Jeffers to so suddenly leave the TCDSB African Canadian Committee?

These two well-educated and experienced individuals, who represent the interests of all individuals in the Black African community, share a true and honest willingness to remove the systemic racism in the TCDSB. Both individuals have been Catholic parents and supporters, for decades, and have a clear understanding of what must be done, in a manner that is respectful to all.

Racist individuals possess distinct characteristics, which include identifying people by the color of their skin and their cultural background. They identify themselves as being the superior race and, when unchallenged, spread their poisonous views, as in this case at the TCDSB, an educational institution that operates under Roman Catholic Values.

It seems like it was only yesterday, that Kirk Mark and Ken Jeffers were being praised, up and down, by the present TCDSB Trustees, but something went wrong. Something unacceptable happened that the public is not aware of.

It appears everyone, especially the Black African community, was given a false sense of sincerity by the TCDSB Trustees, but could it be an individual in a position of authority, who was responsible for mismanaging the situation? Only Kirk Mark or Ken Jeffers could reveal this to you. After corresponding with Kirk Mark, I became aware of several matters of concern, involving Dr. Brendan Browne, Derek Chen, Ken Jeffers and Kirk Mark.

Chen is the current TCDSB Superintendent of Equity. To better understand this individual, I looked up his qualifications on Linked-in. Unfortunately I was unable to find any past experience or training he possesses, in dealing with Equity, Diversity, or Indigenous Education, for which his position at the TCDSB requires him to have. Chen’s work experience is limited to being an ESL Teacher, Teacher, Vice Principal, Principal, and Head of Campus. Why was he hired by the TCDSB Trustees to hold this position of authority, if he is unqualified?

In today’s society, decisions to fill positions of authority are often done without reason, in an attempt to facilitate a more diversified workforce, based on one’s racial and cultural backgrounds. Any decision done in this manner serves no purpose.

Former TCDSB Director of Education, Rory McGuckin, who left his term of office two years early, was responsible for appointing Chen to his position.

Making poor decisions of appointing unqualified managerial staff members is unacceptable, is a recipe for disaster, and will always be the downfall of any institution or business.

For years, Kirk Mark held the understated title, as being the TCDSB’s Co-coordinator of Race and Ethnic Relations Multiculturalism and Senior Co-coordinator of Community Relations. Why was he not given the title of Superintendent, like the Heads of all the other TCDSB departments?

To better understand this situation, I asked Kirk Mark to forward me his version of events and his correspondence was as follows:

“As per your additional information to enhance the attached document, Trustee Garry Tanuan requested my support in drafting a Motion to form a TCDSB Race Relations Committee in August 2020 for the Trustee Meeting of the said day. This Motion was proposed and accepted by Trustees on the same day. The plan was to have a combination of Trustees, Parents, Community Members and Students form the Committee and led by Trustees. Upon my resignation from the TCDSB African Canadian Advisory Committee (ACAC) in early March 2021, Trustee Tanuan requested that I submit an application for the Race Relations Committee in late April 2021 to become a participant. This was completed and returned to him, whereby his secretary confirmed receipt.

“In the May 2021 TCDSB Board of Trustees Meeting, Trustee Tanuan heard from Derek Chen that he chose applicants, but did not involve Trustees for which Garry took offence and felt that Derek placed him in an embarrassing position. Later, it was said that Derek did not know the difference between a Board Standing Committee (comprised of Trustees, community, students) and an Advisory Committee.

“Also, Trustee Tanuan was told, by Derek, that Director Browne made the final decision on who would be part of the RRC, and Kirk Mark was not chosen, because he was a ‘trouble-maker’. It is the same Brendan Browne, who lauded all these ‘complimentary words’, full of hypocrisy to say the least. Yes, Derek is incompetent, as your Linklin research found; he does not have a background in equity work, nor did he participate in equity initiatives while I was at the Board, until I dragged him into assisting with Asian Heritage Month. Other than that, he would have remained on the sidelines and, it begs the question, as to why Rory would hire a person without the required skillset.”

Editor, I feel that by using the word “differences” in your article’s title, it might overshadow the injustices the Black African community has suffered, by allowing the readership to believe that Mark and Jeffers simply did not agree with the perceived good intentions of the TCDSB. It apparently was not a simple misunderstanding.

Without the participation of these two well-rounded individuals, the voices of the Black African community will be suppressed again, and cast aside, like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

It is a dangerous path for anyone involved with the TCDSB, to be blind-sighted and support any decision-makers, who undermine the directives of the TCDSB. Compromising Catholic values is unacceptable, and to do this is an act of a shallow and self-serving individual, who does not respect their members in their community.

Systemic racism in the TCDSB is simply not the fault of only one individual, but all who fail to stop it. Having Mark and Jeffers help the world’s largest Catholic School Board to stop the present systemic racism, for free, should not be taken for granted. It takes years to achieve the levels of wisdom and expertise that these two individuals have to offer the community and the TCDSB. One must also take into consideration their working experience in the public sector.

For years the TCDSB has failed to stop or implement any policies that are capable of elevating the problems, and Mark and Jeffers have been at the forefront of developing and implementing equity policies.

The present TCDSB Director of Education, Dr. Brendan Browne, revealed that problems existed, when he started his role in September 2020. One should ask, what the real issues are? Is the problem that the TCDSB simply does not have the intellectual or strategic resources to achieve a goal of combatting and dismantling systemic racism? Or is the problem that the individuals in charge, specifically the TCDSB Trustees, are not diversified enough, in terms of their cultural backgrounds or ethnicity to bring forth any changes?

Changes must start at the top of any organization and one must practice what one preaches. The TCDSB’s actions could be perceived by the public as condoning a biased approach to dealing with systemic racism.

For years, Mark held the understated title, as being the TCDSB’s Co-coordinator of Race and Ethnic Relations Multiculturalism and Senior Co-coordinator of Community Relations. Why was he not given the title of Superintendent, like the Heads of all the other TCDSB departments?

It appeared that Mark was not treated as an equal to his White co-workers. This was brought to the attention of the TCDSB, but they did not rectify this discriminatory practice.

Mark’s ability to put people first, before himself, was, and still is, a genuine quality not many people can say they have. The discrimination that he was subjected to at the TCDSB has gone unaccounted and that, in itself, is a matter for which the TCDSB should apologize.

Secondly, I wonder why the TCDSB is so reluctant to collect data, which would enable it to disclose its deficiencies? This practice would allow the TCDSB to engage in acquiring solutions. This is a simple process, which is practiced at all levels of the corporate world. Private corporations use statistics and analytics to improve productivity, yet when it is needed to improve the education of Black students, there is always a strategic avoidance and reluctance. Why is this?

The unwillingness of the TCDSB to acquire data only adds to the problem. It might be an oversight, but this practice, after so many years, implies much more. Just think of the astronomical amounts of money that the TCDSB Trustees have spent, over the years, to hire unqualified managerial staff members that have provided us with less than positive results to improve student achievement.

The Toronto District School Board has student representation by population and this has been going on for years. To assist with addressing the problem of Black student failure rates, they have gone as far as creating a center for Black student achievement.

Now the Ontario government is going to force the TCDSB to comply with data collection by the 2023 school year and the TCDSB Trustees are still reluctant to put the community’s well-being first, instead of conducting mindless acts of non-progressive measures as usual.

Something is really wrong with the TCDSB Trustees’ inability to stop the systemic racism in their school board and, hopefully, with your “investigative” expertise you can help provide everyone with a clearer picture of how Mark and Jeffers were disrespected and what is really wrong at the TCDSB.

Having inappropriate appointed individuals to manage the affairs of the world’s largest Catholic school board is alarming, to say the least. You should investigate the individuals in charge at the TCDSB and determine what their qualifications are, in relation to what their positions require. Then you will be able to determine what is really wrong and ask why the Ontario government does not hold the TCDSB Trustees accountable for the systemic racism in their board.

The Ontario government has given notice to the TCDSB to adopt a “student representation by population policy”. For decades, the Toronto District School Board has implemented this policy and, in doing so, has been more transparent and pro-active than the TCDSB in dealing with racism.

It is apparent that it works, because I was a student of the T.D.S.B. and witnessed an education that addressed systemic racism. Your article clearly identifies the Ontario Ministry of Education as praising the Director of Education for his actions, working in harmony with the members of the board’s African Canadian Advisory Committee, but after corresponding with Kirk Mark, I feel it is important to investigate why the TCDSB has cast him and Jeffers aside, and labeled Mark as a “trouble-maker”, which, in my opinion, is a slap in the face for the Black African Community when these two gentlemen are trying to resolve systemic racism that is prevalent in that school board.

Together, we must identify systemic racism and modern racism in the TCDSB to stop it.

Sincerely yours,
John Noble

  1. Source of Systemic Racism definition; en.m.wikipedia.org
  2. Source of Modern Racism definition; quizlet.com

Editor’s note: John Noble is described, by an individual who worked with him at the Toronto Catholic District School Board, as “A TCDSB staff member, who has a long-standing tradition of standing up for equity”.

The above comments in John Noble’s letter does not reflect the opinion of neither Pride News Magazine, its management or staff members, and is the sole responsibility of Mr. Noble.

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