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York school board trustee Nancy Elgie steps down over racial-slur controversy

YouTube frame grab from a video posted Friday, Feb. 17, 2017, of York Region School trustee Nancy Elgie announcing her resignation, saying she made a “terrible mistake” when she used a racial slur to refer to a black parent.

A York region school trustee who was embroiled in controversy for using a racial slur has resigned.

In a video posted on YouTube on Friday afternoon, Nancy Elgie said she made a "terrible mistake" when she used a racial slur to refer to a black parent.

"I know how hurtful that word is, even if used inadvertently, and I am truly sorry for the pain my words have caused," she said.

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Ms. Elgie has been a trustee for 17 years at the York Region District School Board. The incident last November resulted in calls from parents and public officials for her resignation.

"I have decided that the best thing I can do to serve the people of Georgina, and the board, is to step down," Ms. Elgie said in her video statement. "I hope that this will allow trustees to move forward and focus on the many important issues they face. And that it will enable a process of healing and restoration to begin. I am quite willing to be involved in that process, if it would be helpful, though it will not be as a trustee."

Ms. Elgie, 82, explained that she had a fall and suffered a concussion prior to November's incident.

She said that in a private, hallway conversation with another trustee after a board meeting, she was trying to refer to a parent but did not know her name, and only that she had been featured in stories about children being called a racist word. "In trying to explain that," Ms. Elgie said, "the words came out wrong, very wrong. As soon as I realized what I'd said, I was mortified."

Ms. Elgie said she apologized, but her remark, and not the subsequent apology, was overheard and a complaint was filed. She said she was told not to speak to anyone until the investigation was complete.

After the investigation, she apologized to the parent involved, as well as trustees.

Despite repeated calls for her resignation, Ms. Elgie remained in her post. She only recently took a medical leave.

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"I have come to realize that while my head injury may help explain what I said – why I mixed up my words – it doesn't excuse it," she said. "I used a hurtful word – one that is directly at odds with my values, with the things my husband and I fought for, and with how I've lived my life and brought up my children."

School board chair, Loralea Carruthers, said in a statement that Ms. Elgie made the right decision to resign. The board will formally accept Ms. Elgie's resignation at its next meeting.

"I know many of our communities were looking for this outcome to move forward with the process of healing and rebuilding trust in our system," Ms. Carruthers said.

The York school board, located north of Toronto, has faced a litany of issues recently, from allegations of racism to a lack of financial accountability. Questions have also been raised about trustees' travel expenses, as well as concerns about how the board handled an investigation into anti-Muslim Facebook posts by a principal in Markham.

Last month, Ontario's Education Minister Mitzie Hunter appointed two investigators to review the problems. The investigators will review whether trustees and the director are fulfilling their legislated duties and recommend ways to improve relationships at the board.

A final report with recommendations is due by April 7.

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