Peel school board investigating racist usernames used in online event with NDP leader

·2 min read
Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was a featured guest at a virtual event hosted by the Peel District School Board in honour of Sikh Heritage Month. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press - image credit)
Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was a featured guest at a virtual event hosted by the Peel District School Board in honour of Sikh Heritage Month. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press - image credit)

The Peel District School Board says it is investigating after several people with "racist and discriminatory slurs" in their usernames tried to enter an online event with federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

Singh attended the virtual presentation on Thursday to speak with students for Sikh Heritage Month, the board's Director of Education Colleen Russell-Rawlins said in a letter sent to families.

The slurs targeted Sikh, South Asian, Black and LGBTQ2S+ people, Russell-Rawlins wrote.

"The Peel District School Board recognizes the harm this act of racism and hate caused to students, staff and special guests," the letter said.

WATCH | Peel school board investigates racist usernames used in event with NDP leader

The board said that the individuals were blocked from entering the event as soon as the usernames came to the attention of moderators and that an investigation into the incident has started.

"We are committed to identifying all acts of racism and discrimination at the PDSB and to ensuring those who participate are held accountable," Russell-Rawlins said, adding that those involved "will face consequences" if they are identified.

April is Sikh Heritage Month in Canada. Singh did not publicly address the incident through his social media channels, but did post a video to Twitter to mark the start of the month:

A June 2020 provincial report by lawyer and human rights advocate Arleen Huggins said that the PDSB has struggled with issues of systemic racism. The board's previous director of education, Peter Joshua, was fired by the minister of education in the wake of the report's publication.

At the time, Minister of Education Stephen Lecce said the PDSB had failed to properly address ongoing patterns of racism and discrimination within the institution.

In the letter to families, Russell-Rawlins said the incident on Thursday is a reminder of the importance of the board's "mandate toward equity, anti-racism and anti-oppression transformation."