Two student trustees at Monday’s meeting of the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board voiced criticism of the board for appointing Becky Buck, Trustee for Mountain Wards 8 and 14, Vice Chair of the Board. The two students Deema Abdel Hafeez and Aisha Mahmoud stressed that they were relaying criticisms that they had received largely from the student activist coalition, Hamilton Students for Justice. The coalition said Buck should not have been appointed after she was named in a report earlier this year investigating allegations of racism on the board made by a former student trustee.
In the report, which did not make a finding of breach of Conduct against Buck there were two findings of fact, namely:
- In a debate over removing Hamilton Police from HWDSB schools, Buck had used the term “Twitter trolls” to describe persons who had been critical of her on social media about the police issue.
- In a debate over whether to create an indigenous student trustee position, it was her position that instituting an extra Student Trustee position for one minority group was not an equitable act… that if the Board could not create dedicated student trustee positions for all equity-seeking groups, it would be more equitable to not create any such position.
Defending herself Trustee Buck said no finding had been made that she had breached the code of conduct as said the allegations against her were untrue.
The report which was authored by Toronto lawyer Arleen Huggins stated “addressing racism within an organization requires the prioritization of the voices of marginalized groups, and that comments that seek to question or devalue marginalized voices undermine the concept of equity and are in themselves racist and offensive.” But this comment seemed to be more in the context of a statement that “all lives matter,” that was made by another trustee in a discussion in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder.
The Huggins report was commissioned when shocking allegations on racism at the trustee level were made by former student trustee Ahoma Mehdi, now a university student. The most controversial of these allegations was the use of the “n-word” by a trustee—an allegation that Huggins was unable to substantiate.