The race between two hopeful Toronto administrators vying for a position on the French-language public school board has been declared a draw by the city after one of the candidates was deemed ineligible.
In a ruling Wednesday night, City of Toronto Clerk John D. Elvidge determined that candidate Joseph Frascà “no longer qualifies for office because it has been determined (that he is not ) not a holder of French language rights as required by the Education Act” due to the fact that Frascà never attended a French-language school in Canada or had children in a French-language school .
Municipal election rules state that if a candidate becomes ineligible and another candidate is acclaimed, the election must be declared void and a by-election must be held.
Frascà and Amina Bibi Bhaiyat had been registered to run in Monday’s election to represent central Toronto on the Conseil Scolaire Viamonde – a 12-trustee board with 56 schools and 13,200 students in a region that spans the southwest from Ontario to Hastings County.
The parents of students attending the four schools in Toronto-Centre were alarmed recently when they learned that none of the candidates spoke French.
They sent a letter Wednesday morning to the city arguing that Frascà was ineligible to hold a position on the French council and to annul the election.
The city agreed and in its decision noted that when candidates register they must sign an acknowledgment affirming that they are qualified to be elected.
Frascà did not respond to the Star following the city’s announcement, but spoke out earlier today and explained that he was unaware of the specific criteria required to serve on the French language council. . He said he wouldn’t have signed up if he had known and was “fully prepared to accept whatever the outcome”.
Bhaiyat criticized that Frascà’s lack of qualifications came to light just days before the election. “Why am I being punished because (the city) didn’t check properly?
“I was very disappointed. Every time I try something good someone stabs me in the back,” she said, adding that she intended to run again in the by-election.
Concerns about Frascà’s eligibility emerged on Tuesday when the candidate, who said he works as a whereabouts coordinator for the City of Toronto, fielded questions from parents who said they had been trying for months to get information. of the two contestants, neither of whom had posted biographical or contact information until recently. It was thanks to the efforts of the parents to find Frascà and Bhaiyat that they discovered that neither spoke French.
Frascà studied French until grade 11 and Bhaiyat went to a French-language school in Montreal as a child, but both confirmed to the Star that they were far from fluent. Among the conditions for becoming a Viamonde trustee, candidates must be able to “understand French”. There is no specific requirement to speak it. However, council spokesperson Steve Lapierre confirmed that council business is governed and administered in the following language: “All meetings are held in French and all documentation is provided strictly in French. »
Cameron MacLeod, a parent of a Viamonde elementary school child and one of the signatories to the parents’ complaint, had previously expressed ‘serious concerns’ to the Star about the contestants’ inability to participate and plead properly without master the language.
“This is the right outcome for honest and fair elections, for the honesty and transparency of candidates, and for the protection of French language rights in Toronto,” MacLeod said following the ruling. “Now we can move forward with a strongly engaged community of parents and make things right.”
Bhaiyat, who runs a retail business and was previously a school crossing guard, is calling for inclusive policies that welcome all students, including newcomers who speak neither English nor French. Her daughter, Habiba Desai, a candidate for Scarborough-Guildwood alderman, attended a Viamonde school.
MacLeod said the parents are already considering forming a search committee and recruiting credible candidates. He doesn’t blame the two candidates for wanting to get involved, but notes that there are other ways to get involved, like helping with fundraising and volunteering, which he, as an English-speaking parent, does. .
“Not being able to function in French hurts the board of directors. It slows down their business,” he said. “And that also means there’s an incentive for someone who doesn’t speak French to shut up because it’s easier for everyone, including them… which hurts our neighborhood because we we need an effective advocate who will speak up for the things that are needed and not just listen.
The ballots with the names of the candidates have already been printed and cannot be changed in time for the election. French-language public school board voters will be advised not to mark their ballot for a school trustee. The city said all ballots cast for either candidate on Monday or in advance and mail-in voting will be void.
In the other regions of the Viamonde council, five candidates are running unopposed and the seat of Niagara is not claimed and should be filled in a by-election.
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