Activists are calling for the resignation of a Toronto Catholic District School Board trustee after he suggested that an undocumented immigrant student applying to Catholic schools should "apply for Canadian Citizenship ASAP."
Both legislation and district policy state that the school district cannot discriminate against undocumented immigrants who apply. In an e-mail to Nadia Saad, a university social-work student who was working with an undocumented student, Frank D'Amico said that they were lucky he didn't answer an earlier phone call, "because my first call would be to immigration Canada.
"If you want to live in Canada, take our Canadian jobs, use our Social Programs and Health Care ... I strongly suggest becoming a citizen. I am forwarding your concern to the RCMP and to immigration Canada."
The e-mail was in response to an earlier e-mail Ms. Saad had sent numerous trustees about difficulties finding a placement for a student whose parents were undocumented immigrants. In her original e-mail, she referred to a phone call with a school board administrator that she claimed was skeptical of undocumented immigrants; Mr. D'Amico's response was that "unless you've been on another planet for the last Decade, I will remind you, 911. [sic]September 11 the day that changed the world."
At a TCDSB meeting on Thursday, the immigration activist group No One Is Illegal, alongside Social Planning Toronto, will demand Mr. D'Amico's resignation and make the case that he should receive disciplinary action.
Mr. D'Amico did not respond to multiple requests for comment and had not released any public statements prior to publication.
Farrah Miranda, an organizer with No One Is Illegal, said Ms. Saad told the group about the situation after she contacted several TCDSB trustees about the student having trouble finding space in several of their schools. She received the aforementioned e-mail in response from Mr. D'Amico. (Ms. Saad was unavailable for comment.) Because Mr. D'Amico wrote that he would contact Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the RCMP, Ms. Miranda said she's concerned that Mr. D'Amico has "threatened the safety of students in school." Combined with his comments on 9/11, Ms. Miranda said Mr. D'Amico's words were "extremely absurd for an elected official with an active role in decisions and policymaking."
Ms. Miranda said she hopes the other trustees will take a stand on the issue.
Mr. D'Amico apologized for his behaviour by e-mail the day after he contacted Ms. Saad. "I promise not to embarrass the board again," he wrote. "I understand that although we have no power as individuals, we still represent the board, and although we mean well, sometimes the way the public perceives information can hurt our good intentions."
Ann Andrachuk, chair of the TCDSB, said Mr. D'Amico "misspoke."
"We've taken action to bring him up to speed on the policy, so he has a clear understanding of what the regulations are and have been in place for many years with our board." He will have to contact staff to verify policy or make decisions in the future, Ms. Andrachuk said.
Fellow trustee Maria Rizzo said "he's a new trustee and didn't understand the policies. … I don't make excuses for what he said; however, he is very green."
Ms. Andrachuk confirmed the school board's policy to not deny students based on their parents' immigration status. She declined to comment on Mr. D'Amico's words, but said that if the school board were told which schools the undocumented student was denied access to, they would be able to better assist the student. "We're not stopping anybody," Ms. Andrachuk said. "We'd like to help."