The Louis Riel School Division’s leaders have issued an apology “for allowing our board meeting to be a venue for hate” in the wake of its trustees’ final public event of the school year being repeatedly disrupted by rowdy attendees and cut short as a result.

Upwards of two dozen supporters of suspended trustee Francine Champagne, including several “freedom fighters,” showed up to the LRSD boardroom at 50 Monterey Rd. around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The board unanimously voted two weeks earlier to suspend the St. Boniface representative for three months without pay, citing violations of internal policies on respect for human diversity and social media.

Champagne, a rookie board member, has taken to her personal Facebook page on multiple occasions to share anti-LGBTTQ+ content since she was elected.

A group of her supporters demanded answers Tuesday about the disciplinary action taken against her — the harshest penalty possible under the Public Schools Act — and claimed she has the right to speak freely.

Multiple others who were in attendance described the event as tense, with several individuals making derogatory comments toward one trustee who came out as bisexual after his colleague was reprimanded for making anti-LGBTTQ+ posts online.

Police received multiple calls about a disturbance at the site.

“(Division representatives) want to reiterate a commitment to safe, caring and inclusive working and learning environments, which includes the boardroom,” a joint release issued by board chairwoman Sandy Nemeth and superintendent Christian Michalik states.

The statement condemns the homophobic, transphobic and racist remarks LRSD community members were subjected to throughout the recent meeting.

Champagne has not weighed in on the matter. The Ward 1 official did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

“There were members of our staff and of our board who expressed feeling very nervous and apprehensive and unsafe during and after what transpired,” Nemeth said in an interview. “We will take steps to make sure this scenario does not occur again.”

Patrick Allard, an outspoken People’s Party of Canada member who earned notoriety for opposing mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic, was among the people who attended.

Allard, who does not live in LRSD, said he and others were denied the ability to sign up as delegations.

“What we saw on (Tuesday) was a board full of hate for different opinions and scared of dialogue,” he said in an email.

The board’s stance is that members of the public can only register to address specific agenda items and that Champagne’s suspension was not on Tuesday’s schedule.

Attendees were invited to ask questions during a standard question-and-answer forum, a 15-minute slot that is always set aside during regular meetings.

The board is slated to resume regular meetings in early September.

By Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 22, 2023 at 22:46

This item reprinted with permission from   Free Press   Winnipeg, Manitoba
Comments are Welcome - Leave a reply below - Posts are moderated

Comments are Welcome - Leave a reply below - Posts are moderated