When various Waterloo Region school board candidates held a hybrid meeting titled “Education at the Crossroads,” 100 people physically attended the event at the Polish Veterans Legion Branch in Kitchener. Online, 500 more tuned into the live stream.
The October 5 event continued the organized effort to see anti-trans and anti-CRT (critical race theory) candidates elected as Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) trustees and claimed to be about “protecting our kids from dangerous ideas in public schools.”
Sponsored by FaithFM, FAIR Waterloo Region, and anonymous “community partners,” the event was also promoted within COVID conspiracy circles. The advertised speakers were David Haskell, WRDSB trustee Mike Ramsay, and former WRDSB teacher Carolyn Burjoski. The MC for the event was Ahmed Kassad who is running as a school board trustee candidate for the WRDSB in Kitchener.
PPC Candidate Shares His Thoughts On Race
Screen capture of David Haskell during the October event.
Waterloo is no stranger to this rhetoric. Recently thrust into the national spotlight, Waterloo Region District School Board trustees had to cut off a teacher’s anti-trans board delegation for violating Ontario Human Rights Code (OHRC) and censure Ramsay for violating the trustee code of conduct.
Haskell was the People’s Party of Canada candidate in Cambridge for the 2019 federal election. He is also the head of FAIR Waterloo Region, a group claiming to be “dedicated to advancing civil rights and liberties for all.” Haskell described CRT as a “fraudulent and harmful treatment” being prescribed to students that makes racism worse.
He declared that “CRT has been replaced, it's been repackaged and presented as anti-racism education.”
In response to a request for comment, Haskell cited several studies and meta-analyses that attempted to measure the impacts of Diversity and Inclusion Training on reducing racism. While the studies relate primarily to industry training, the authors did conclude these programs had little impact on racism or bias.
“I would support anti-racism education if it abandoned the influence of CRT,” wrote Haskell in his response, “and did not promote: 1) the idea that an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of his/her race; 2) the idea that by virtue of his/her race an individual is inherently privileged, racist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously; 3) the idea that by virtue of his/her race an individual bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race.”
The cross-disciplinary framework of CRT is not generally taught to children. By equating the two ideas, Haskell is able to demonize any action a school board takes against racism.
Haskell claims “CRT instruction is now illegal in over 35 States,” neglecting to note this is a result of Republicans taking on CRT as a culture war issue and ignoring the intimidation US school boards have faced from groups like the Proud Boys and Three Percenters over this issue.
Screen capture of a slide used by David Haskell during the October event. It reads "Pushing back against CRT."
He also claims “CRT evolved out of Marxist ideology,” a common claim from anti-CRT enthusiasts that alludes to conservative, anti-communist inclinations or larger, often antisemitic, conspiracy theories.
Much of Haskell's opposition to CRT is rooted in the idea that racism is less of a problem than it used to be and that focusing on race only makes things worse. He cites StatCan data, saying “that Canadians of South and East Asian Heritage… achieve higher income and much higher educational attainment than whites.”
Reporting from Cambridge Today includes interviews with current trustees and administrators who assert unequivocally that CRT is not being taught to young children and that they have in fact requested specific examples of CRT being taught in schools, but have not been provided any.
He ignores the specific nature of anti-Black racism in Canada by omitting the fact that Black people face persistent systemic racism, including within the education system.
During the Kitchener event, Haskell mentions a motion brought forward by trustee Cindy Waston calling the board to investigate CRT in schools and write to the ministry about parental concerns over teaching CRT. He mocks the WRDSB Education Director jeewan chanicka for “weeping openly” during his delegation about the harm this motion had on racialized students, resulting in audible laughter from the audience.
He adds that the school board has been “hijacked by activists … promoting their own radical ideologies.” Meanwhile, these people hold meetings espousing anti-CRT and anti-trans ideology and put forward motions to oppose any semblance of equity because of their personal political and religious beliefs.
Trustee “Silenced” By His Own Lawyer
Despite the advertisements for the event, Mike Ramsay who is running for re-election in Kitchener was not in attendance and instead had a statement read on his behalf.
According to court documents released by Ramsay, he is seeking to have the decision to censure him overturned and prevent the board from conducting any subsequent formal inquiries against him. Despite initiating these legal proceedings himself, his statement says he could not speak at the meeting because he may be exposed “to another frivolous and vexatious legal challenge.”
Ramsay wants “to continue the fight against indoctrinating kids to adopt divisive concepts.” However, his Twitter feed contains many such concepts including a tweet that denies the existence of transgender children.
Screenshot of a retweet by Mike Ramsay denying the existence of Transgender children. Source: Twitter
Carolyn Burjoski has also initiated legal action against WRDSB; suing for defamation and seeking a review of the decision to halt her board delegation for violating the OHRC. She says this is to deter school boards from taking similar actions as they did against her. Her original delegation focused on questioning the appropriateness of gender-diverse books for young children. The attack on 2SLGBTQIA+ literature is something that has also been happening more frequently in Canadian and US school boards. This organizing is alongside anti-CRT efforts, with groups like the Proud Boys also showing up and attempting to get this type of literature banned.
Carolyn Burjoski speaking during the October event.
In her speech, Burjoski parrots common anti-trans talking points; raising fears about irreversible surgeries and hormone therapy for young children. Her words about gender dysphoria make it sound like a social contagion that spreads by exposure to trans people. She tells several “stories” about students only reconsidering their gender after gender presentations, their friend coming out as trans, or reading about it online.
Specifically arguing that there are kids “presenting gender dysphoria after a friend came out as trans or after being exposed to the idea.” She wants to strongly consider that “gender dysphoria… is increasing due to social reasons.”
When people talk about not wanting their children exposed to “radical gender ideology” the alternative they describe is the eradication of any sexual or gender-diverse presence around their child or themselves.
She warns against a WRDSB survey that could “plant the idea in a child's head that their bodies do not determine whether they are a boy or a girl.”
This is an explicitly trans-eliminationist position that denies the existence of gender apart from binary, biological sex. This also leaves no room for the existence of intersex people and ignores the many gender “normalizing” surgeries conducted on children without their informed consent.
She raises the spectre of “parental rights,” wanting to let teachers out students to their parents against their wishes. The outing of 2SLGBTQIA+ students in non-affirming households can lead to an increased risk of domestic violence, abandonment, and/or suicide. The rules currently in place to prevent this are for the safety and protection of students as well as upholding their human rights to privacy and freedom of expression.
Burjoski declined to comment, citing the advice of her lawyer.
The school board race in the region has been mired in controversy, including multiple candidates who have made troubling statements relating to gender diversity and misinformation about critical race theory. According to Cambridge Today, educators have called the Waterloo region race “the most important race in the last two decades.”
Amid the controversy is a website promoting so-called “anti-woke” candidates, including incumbents Mike Ramsay and Cindy Watson. The site is now under investigation for potentially breaching municipal election rules.