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FORUM: The trustee and the tyrant (Winter 2019)

March 14th, 2019 · No Comments

Moise opposes the “hack and slash system of anything goes” of Premier Ford

TDSB Trustee Chris Moise talks about local politics, keeping schools progressive, and fighting Premier Doug Ford in court (and winning).

By Chris Moise

When I first ran for Toronto District School Board (TDSB) Trustee in 2016, I did it because I wanted to make a difference in our education system. At the time, there was an over 3.4 billion-dollar deficit in repairs needed to fix our schools’ crumbling infrastructure due to lack of funding. There was also a disproportionate number of black and Indigenous students being expelled from the classroom in contrast to their white peers, and equity seemed like a progressive fantasy that would never come to fruition. 

Within the first few months of being elected, I hit the ground running. Not only did I join the board’s Enhancing Equity Task Force (an initiative designed to empower all students and provide greater access for future opportunities) but I was elected vice chair of the TDSB. In the months that followed, I worked closely with our senior team around repairs. This included channelling resources into improving Jesse Ketchum Parkette and the community use of the school, improving Church Street JPS field and getting air condition systems installed for students in every classroom during the hottest of summer months.  

I also made some tough decisions for the betterment of our students that attracted a lot of backlash from some parents. I put forth legislation to remove SROs (School Resource Officers) from some of our schools, after receiving numerous complaints from students who felt both threatened and alienated by the presence of police standing outside their classrooms. Now, I am in no way anti-police (having once been a police officer myself), but I felt that this was something that had to be done. We did it and it worked.  

In January of 2018, I announced that I would run for Toronto City Council in the new 47 ward system (an increase of three wards from the previous year). I was so committed to the cause that I changed my whole life: I sold my house, purchased a condo in what was to be my new ward (25), and intended to step down as trustee. My poll numbers for council were high, and I had the support of my peers at the board, incumbent councillors, and prominent residents in the community.  

Then Doug Ford happened. 

As we all know, the 47 ward system was decimated down to a mere 25. I, along with countless others, risked and lost everything. Other council hopefuls lost even more than I did. Some quit six figure jobs in order to run, only to be left with zero ground to stand on. 

We decided to take the provincial government to court over Bill 5. Thanks to the ruling of Judge Edward Belobaba, who saw the move by the premier as both undemocratic and highly suspect, we won. 

In response, Ford threatened to invoke the Notwithstanding Clause. The rest, as they say, is history.  

I was devastated, and even considered leaving public office behind entirely. I became darkly contented with the fact that we live in an unjust world, and that I should just accept this and move on. 

Then Ford introduced a regressive amendment that targeted our students and teachers by re-instituting the 1998 Sex-Ed curriculum, replacing and downgrading the modern and inclusive 2014 model implemented by the Wynn government. I decided that there was still more I could do, even if I wouldn’t be doing it at City Hall. I ran again as TDSB trustee, this time in the new ward of Toronto Centre-University Rosedale. I won my seat on the board, and once again, I was intent on hitting the ground running. 

This term, I am focusing [so far] on two major issues: continuing to address the repairs backlog, and fighting Doug Ford’s reinstatement of the dangerously outdated Health & Physical Education Bill. Taking a look at the recent disturbing events at St. Mike’s private school makes it clear that keeping crucial terminology in the classroom, terminology removed from the 2014 model, could have possibly shifted a seemingly consent-anemic culture where sexual bullying appears to have been the status quo.   

There are dark days ahead, but there are also brighter days to follow. We trustees must advocate on behalf of all students, especially during a time when progressive voices are being silenced by those who misinterpret their responsibility for carte blanche power, and disregard democracy in favour of a hack-and-slash system of anything goes. 

For more information or to contact Chris Moise, please visit www.chrismoise.ca.

Tags: Annex · Columns · Opinion

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