St. Boniface school trustee suspended for third time

An embattled school trustee in St. Boniface has been suspended from her governing duties for the third time in five months.

The Louis Riel School Division’s board of trustees unanimously voted to take disciplinary action against their Ward 1 colleague, Francine Champagne, during a regular board meeting Tuesday.

“Last month, the board — through myself as chair — received communication from a member of the community that included a screenshot of a Facebook comment that used racist language that was made by (Champagne),” Sandy Nemeth told attendees at the event held both in person and online.

The board chairwoman said the letter-writer requested the board take action, in turn prompting officials to invite the trustee in question to a meeting to discuss the situation.

Champagne, a rookie trustee who was elected to the board in 2022, did not attend, Nemeth said.

The St. Boniface representative has been barred from her responsibilities for three months without pay, starting on Nov. 17. Champagne is currently serving a one-month suspension — which was slated to end in mid-November — for failing to submit paperwork.

Champagne’s latest penalty is related to allegations she breached the board’s code of conduct with regards to using “abusive or denigrating language” and misusing social media.

According to LRSD policies, elected officials are expected to act in a respectful manner and refrain from making posts on social media that “discredit, undermine or compromise the integrity of the board.”

Champagne has yet to participate in a public meeting in 2023-24.

The trustee has been vocal about her stance against COVID-19 mandates and conspiratorial beliefs — including an outrageous claim that schools are sexualizing children as part of a larger world-domination “agenda” — on Facebook.

Winklerite Karl Krebs, who gained notoriety for opposing public health protocols during the height of the pandemic, has been in her corner since her initial suspension on June 6.

The self-governing board was united in its initial decision to suspend Champagne over her anti-LGBTTQ+ activity in the spring.

In response to the disciplinary action, Krebs and about two dozen other supporters of Champagne showed up to the board’s subsequent meeting to raise a ruckus, heckle trustees and claim the disciplined trustee’s free-speech rights had been violated.

Champagne, a self-employed translator, has repeatedly declined interview requests.

She has been an active board member for a total of six weeks since early June.

Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press