Human rights complaint costs province thousands to fight

Ryan Ross
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A human rights complaint involving a white teacher wearing blackface makeup cost Island taxpayers more than $34,000 in legal costs before it was finally settled.

A human rights complaint involving a white teacher wearing blackface makeup cost Island taxpayers more than $34,000 in legal costs before it was finally settled.

French Language School Board chair Robert Maddix said the board was happy with how things were handled and while apologies were made after the incident, a third party later filed the complaint.

"We had taken the matter seriously at the time and we always do," he said.

A request to the Finance Department under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act (FOIPP) showed the almost six-year-long complaint settlement process cost the province $33,843.75.

That money came from the taxpayer funded provincial Self-Insurance and Risk Management Fund.

Noel Ayangma, who filed the complaint, wasn't given any financial compensation and told The Guardian he didn't request any.

The complaint stemmed from a staff meeting in March 2007 at École Francois Buote in Charlottetown during which a video was shown of a white teacher in blackface.

Although the staff member who was the target of what was referred to as a spoof later said she was satisfied with apologies from the three teachers involved, Ayangma filed the human rights complaint.

He filed the complaint on March 20, 2007 and it was only resolved last month with an apology posted on the French Language School Board's website.

Along with the apology, the school board will hold education sessions as part of the settlement.

When it came to deciding on a settlement, Maddix said the province's risk management group handled that part of the complaint before taking any resolution to the school board for final approval.

"With the resolution, at the end of the day, we do have to agree or disagree," he said.

As for how long it took to resolve the complaint, Maddix said he thought it was a process that can take time.

"We dealt with it as efficiently as possible to our board," he said.

The complaint wasn't the only one against the French Language School Board in recent years that was resolved with a legal bill for the province.

A complaint by Aritho Amfoubalela, a Congolese teacher who alleged racism at École Évangeline, cost the province almost $229,000 to fight.

But in that case, while all the parties involved eventually settled, the details of the agreement were never made public.

Ayangma said in his case, there was a resolution long before the board issued its apology, but he wouldn't agree to it until it was made public.

"I said it had to be published," he said.

Organizations: Finance Department, French Language School Board

Geographic location: Iceland, Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • a novelle idea
    February 21, 2013 - 19:09

    Here is a very simple solution: Stop violating the rights of others. Stop harassing females. Something that needs to learned even among the so called educated. Keep covering up wrongdoing and letting those who harass and discriminate and it will continue and get worse. It will continue to cost taxpayers because violating the rights of others is illegal. In addition,it will continue to give Islanders an unfair "redneck" bad name because those with power abuse it and violate the rights of others. The public turns a blind eye. Too bad, violating the rights of anyone needs to stop and until it does stop then the taxpayers will continue to pay..

  • It's too bad
    February 21, 2013 - 08:42

    It is very easy to point the finger as some do, it can be easy to see the whole picture. Why does a black man fight to defend his rights in an almost all white society? Why does a black man defends himself against a school board? Because there is racism on our gentle island and I for one raise a toast to both of these men for their perseverance and proving that injustices exists even here.

  • Ridiculous
    February 20, 2013 - 19:18

    Agyangma was I thought "stopped" from wasting court's time.......taxpayers don't need to pay for his antics. Enough is Enough!

  • appalled
    February 20, 2013 - 19:16

    waste of our taypayers dollars!

  • gee
    February 20, 2013 - 11:58

    After Ted Danson did it yrs ago you would think it would catch on that it is wrong Esp this being a teacher in this day and age..

  • Bill Kays
    February 20, 2013 - 09:04

    The real question here is are we going to allow people access to the courts for this type of complaint and the answer is yes. We allowed this judicial system to become unmanageable and unsustainable (I hate that word sustainable). We allowed lawyers to charge exhorbitant fees and or hourly wages that make a poor person realize that there are several layers of judicial justice. That is, justice for the poor is different than justice for the middle class and different again for the rich. It has always been this way. This is the only system they will allow so I guess we will will have to keep paying for it. When are we going to admit that bilingual crap doesn't work, is too expensive, etc. Why should we have to pay for 2 systems for everything in this country? Why should we stop at only 2 languages? By this country's criteria, aren't we discriminating against the Chinese, Spanish, Lebanese, etc., etc by not offering services in their language. Pick one language and stick to it. I don't care if it is Swahili.

    • That Guy From PEI
      February 20, 2013 - 21:26

      @Bill Kays Bill, you might be in need of a history lesson. You asked the question why the same language rights are not offered to other Canadians of different language. The answer, because they are not recognized in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. French, Bill, is as EQUAL in this country as English is. There is no difference. Myself being English speaking, can walk into any establishment in this country and order in French if I want to. And as a Canadian, I take HUGE offence to you referring to bilingualism as 'crap'. Simple human nature..we reject things we don't understand. Instead of taking time to learn about a topic that we don't understand, we'd rather form an uneducated opinion and splash on public forms making ourselves seem narrow. I do think you would mind if Canada "Stuck to one language, even if it was Sawhili" because obviously if we chose French, it would bother you. Or then again, maybe it would not?

  • islander
    February 20, 2013 - 07:50

    let me get this straight the teacher who was effected by this was satisfied with the apology but Noel Ayangma who was not the subject in the matter filed the complaint. well the Noel Ayangma should be responsible for the costs since the teacher was satisfied with the apology given at the time 6 years ago. Noel Ayangma seems to be in the middle of alot of human rights complaints maybe he should mind his own business.

  • It ain't easy paying Green . . .
    February 20, 2013 - 07:39

    My hero, Muhammad Ali, once said, “Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn't matter which color does the hating. It's just plain wrong.” I would add that racism is a a type of cancer that can only be cured by getting rid of the carcinogens that cause it.

    February 20, 2013 - 07:24

    All these french board people still like to say they are not racists! By "not" being racists, they caused the people of PEI $263,000. The french school board and their supporters should have to be made to repay that money to the people of PEI.This is a dysfunctional school board that needs to be reined in.

    • intobed
      February 20, 2013 - 13:51

      Only middle aged English speaking Caucasian males can be racist in Canada. Everyone else is discriminated against, and needs special treatment and consideration.

    • That Guy From PEI
      February 20, 2013 - 22:24

      @upwester I didn't realize you were premier and a judge all at the same time. Interesting how you blanket an entire school board as dysfunctional when they continue to lead in the annual assessments every year. But ya, they're dysfunctional for sure...

  • John W.A.Curtis
    February 20, 2013 - 06:50

    What is needed is a provincial ombudsman to investigate schools, hospitals and police. the province should disband the police commissioner, P.E.I. Human rights, privacy commisioner , conflict of interest commissioner and create a single commission. Keep all the Acts in place and have the Provincial Ombudsman do the investigation and the single board hear the complaint. The French schoolboard owes Island taxpayers' money cut their funding

    • Too Rational
      February 20, 2013 - 09:45

      John, your suggestion would require too many Friends Of Government (FOGIES) loose their "positions". Besides, this village of 140 000 people has to maintain the illusion of "province" generated by the Confederation narrative. Really, isn't it time to be big enough to know how small we are?

    • agreed Mr. Curtis
      February 21, 2013 - 19:22

      I agree with you, unfortunately PEI politicians don't. PEI is the only province in Canada that does NOT have an ombudsman. This protects all government offices to endulge in wrongdoing as much as they like as there is no transparency and no accountability. In April 2010, Crane had David Hutton here who is the director of FAIR that promotes accountability from government wrongdoing. Well, I guess you can tell how well that went over with this government or even the tories for that matter. Crane eventually gets backstabbed out of office for wanting transparency and accountability with the pnp that was started with the tories. In the legislature on April 8, 2010, Crane's bill, of course, was shot down by all the MLAs. Richard Brown stated "it would make civil servants look bad"-well if there is wrongdoing, they should look bad. Wessy said it was "unnecessary" and a "terribly flawed piece of legislation" but unable to back up such a statement with evidence. Not surprising. Then after a few hours of debate, ghizzy speaks and says "NO" it was a "very flawed" piece of legislation to have transparency and accountability where wrongdoing could be reported. NO reporting wrongdoing according to the libs and tories. Islanders will always be violated and our tax monies will be used to assist those with power and their friends. The average islander does not have a chance and we keep voting these people into power. It makes no sense but I think we will see only further abuses.

    February 20, 2013 - 05:16

    seriously? I completely understand why this was an issue and needed to be dealt with, especially in the school system . But the money and the hassle that was put into this I believe was a waste and could have been dealt with in a different matter. Anyone from the island knows how Noel Ayangma tries to play the racist card way too often, and this is just another example of making a legal situation out of something that the school board could have handled themselves to resolve.

  • Public Nuisance
    February 20, 2013 - 01:31

    For those of you who don't know, Noel Ayangma is a professional lawsuit filer. He has sued more people in PEI than any ten lawyers. He is a public nuisance and an immense expense to the taxpayers. If Noel Ayangma left PEI the government would have an extra $5 million per year to feed hungry children.