Canadian Anti-Hate Network
The upcoming municipal elections in Ontario are particularly important this year. Multiple regions are seeing candidates with positions aligned with far-right ideas getting their names on the ballot for the role of school board trustee.
The nation’s capital is no exception.
According to the Ontario Education Services Corporation, school board trustees are locally-elected representatives of the public on a school board. They are required to carry out their responsibilities in a manner that assists the board in fulfilling its duties under the Education Act.
A trustee's role is to maintain a focus on student achievement, well-being and equity and to participate in making decisions that benefit the board's entire jurisdiction while representing the interests of their constituents. Trustees must also communicate the views and decisions of the board back to their constituents.
Residents head to the polls on October 24.
With the list of candidates locked in, we took a look at those with platforms and public statements that are consistent with far-right ideas, such as being anti-abortion or against education about 2SLGBTQ+.
Source: Campaign Life Coalition
Running in Zone Two for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board in Kanata North/South is Ashley Darling. According to her campaign profile, she has a diploma in Early Childhood Education from Algonquin College, a Bachelor of Arts in Child Studies (Psychology/Sociology) from Carleton University and a Bachelor of Education (primary/junior) from the University of Ottawa.
Her campaign makes little mention of particular social issues, instead focusing on promoting STEAM (STEM with the inclusion of arts) and language arts within classrooms. Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) gave her a green light or “supportable” assessment, based on their 2022 survey.
CLC is a reactionary far-right lobbying group. Since 1987, it has been involved in the creation and/or incubation of three media outlets, one political party, and numerous other anti-abortion, anti-2SLGBTQ+ not-for-profit corporations.
“Ashley gave perfect answers to the 2022 questionnaire,” the organization’s website reads.
The CLC’s questionnaire for public school trustee candidates is much shorter than that of Catholic boards.
Consisting of only three questions, these include asking candidates if they “agree that parents, not the state, have the inherent right of primacy in education of children;” will they “defend the inherent right of parents to be notified in advance regarding any lesson, speaker or presentation involving controversial issues such as abortion, contraception and homosexuality; and if they agree that “parents should have the right to withdraw their children from classroom lessons or presentations involving controversial issues such as abortion, contraception and homosexuality?”
Darling was photographed standing with recently defeated former Chilliwack, BC, candidate Barry Neufeld. Besides accusations of wildly inappropriate behaviour and more or less paralyzing the local school board, Neufeld is also explicitly transphobic and conspiratorial.
Darling did not respond to a request for comment, but in a reply to the picture of her and Neufeld together she said they shared a “mutual friend in BC.” Also pictured alongside them are fellow school board trustee candidates Shannon Boschy and Chanel Pfahl.
In another response to the same photo, Darling stated that “I have not and will not adopt [Blueprint For Canada] as my platform.
Glen Armstrong is an incumbent trustee for the Ottawa Catholic School Board. Running in Zone Six, Armstrong has been a controversial figure since his election in 2018.
In 2021, he was asked to resign and apologize to the Muslim community by other trustees after commenting “Liberal Muslim vote secured” on a news story about the prime minister attending the funeral for the family slain in London, Ontario. Police have said this was a targeted attack.
Among other sanctions, he was also barred from attending certain meetings for the rest of the year.
“I am disappointed that this investigation appears to be politically motivated. I disagree with the findings and I will continue to serve my constituents,” he told the Ottawa Citizen in a statement at the time.
Listed as a candidate for the New Blue party, Armstrong received a green light or “supportable” label from Campaign Life Coalition.
During school board meetings, he opposed the flying of the Pride flag, claiming it would result in the loss of a “Catholic education,” while making no bones about his anti-2SLGBTQ+ views online. Alongside claims that Critical Race Theory and “gender ideology” are being taught in schools, Armstrong has also shared links to the website of Tradition and Action.
Tradition in Action was featured on a list of Catholic organizations that preach antisemitism and is dedicated to “fight changes in the church, starting at the time of the French Revolution, that were supposedly wrought by Masons, Jews, and ‘other seminal secret forces,’” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Shannon Boschy, running in Ottawa’s Zone Six, is a financial planner and partner at the Ottawa-area firm where he works. Sometimes shooting videos from the office, he has penned multiple blog posts complete with accompanying videos since at least December of 2020, focusing primarily on the “dangerous social contagion” – a myth challenged by research in the journal of Pediatrics – he has identified as the “gender ideology.”
Under the name Shannon B Douglas, he has penned multiple articles attempting to separate trans people from the larger 2SLGBTQ+ community.
Closely allying himself with “Billboard” Chris Elston, a prominent Canadian anti-trans activist, Boschy appeared with Elston during the truck blockades that clogged the streets of Ottawa in February. By his own telling, Boschy also joined Elston outside one of the city’s schools to protest in October 2021 – Elston and his billboards were touring to protest outside a number of schools at the time.
When the pair and a few other supporters arrived, they were met by an organized counter-protest.
“I’m a candidate for school board trustee – running against Canada’s only trans-identified school trustee Lyra Evans,” Boschy wrote in July on Twitter. “After 20 years of declining results in education in Ontario, it’s time to stir the pot.”
When reached for comment for a previous story, Boschy rejected the characterization that he is anti-trans.
“In a free and open society I have the right to speak my conscience and to disagree with doctrines being taught to children as fact,” he wrote, citing a number of studies and that his advocacy is done in the “interest of protecting vulnerable children.”
In a subsequent email, Boschy compared trans people to sexual predators.
“Do you ever wonder why so many catholic priests got away with sexually abusing children for so many decades? Could it be that they used their status as representatives of God, as divine authorities, to hide their abuses?”
At this time, it appears he has presented little else about his intended platform other than being opposed to trans-inclusivity in education.
Chanel Pfahl, a former secondary school teacher, is a candidate running for trustee in Ottawa’s Zone Eight. She also attended the Ottawa school protests in October of last year with Elston.
On Twitter, Pfahl refers to herself as a “real LGBT advocate,” yet also recently posted that school-sponsored participation during the capital city’s Pride parade was really about “tearing down the fabric of society for an imagined utopia where all groups have equal outcomes (communism rebranded).”
The former science teacher repeatedly posts and retweets anti-trans statements, fear-mongering about “Critical Race Theory,” and far-right media figures on her Twitter account.
Pfahl declined to comment when contacted about previous articles, but in an emailed statement to CTV, she reportedly wrote, "gender identity is a pseudoscientific concept which harms kids – especially the gender non-conforming kids with some level of gender dysphoria, who are most susceptible to it."
The CLC has held back from endorsing Pfahl, praising her for “courageously” calling out “woke activists” and answering perfectly on their survey, but targeting her sexuality as a point of concern.
“According to a True North Media report she is also "openly gay," her CLC profile reads. “This raises a question about whether, if elected, that conflict would prevent her from honouring the commitments she made in the election survey to defend traditionally-principled families from the current education agenda of promoting homosexuality to impressionable children.”
The organization gave her an amber rating, advising voters to be cautious.
Several other candidates appear on the Campaign Life Coalition list of approved “supportable” candidates, but have little else publicly available about their specific platform.
This includes Paul Safi, running for the Catholic board’s Zone Three, who answered that there are no circumstances in which women should be granted access to abortion outside of life-saving surgery, promised to oppose speakers who contradicted church doctrine, and would prevent the flying of Pride flags or any recognition of June as “Pride Month.”
Matthew Lee, running in the public school system, received a “supportable” rating from CLC. Lee provided a platform to the City of Ottawa, though it makes no mention of the topics in the CLC questionnaire. In the same ward, Maher Jebara received a green light from the CLC based on his answers to their survey questions.
Rasha Alnaqeeb, running for trustee in Zone Four, likewise received the CLC’s green light for being “pro-parental rights.” She does not appear to have a campaign website or platform publicly available.
Pat Suwalskiis another fairly unknown candidate. Running in Zone Six against Glen Armstrong, he has provided little to no information about his platform, nor did he provide a web address to the city. A webpage registered to Suwalskiis, which appears out of use for several years, focuses on his engineering projects and computer modelling. A Twitter account under his name continues to make statements supporting the convoy occupation of Ottawa in February 2022.