A Department of Education policy should have prevented a People’s Party of Canada candidate from participating in a recent Dartmouth high school election debate, instead of requiring she be invited, says NDP education critic Claudia Chender.
Chender is urging Education Minister Zach Churchill to change the policy that requires all candidates to be invited to public school election debates. Instead, the policy should give principals and teachers the authority to decide who participates.
Michelle Lindsay, a People’s Party of Canada candidate for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, participated in an all-candidates debate at Dartmouth High School last week, the same week fellow PPC candidate Sybil Hogg, running in Sackville-Preston-Chezzetcook, came under fire for a past social media post calling Islam “pure evil” and “not compatible with democracy.”
“We have some incredibly diverse high schools in Halifax regional municipality, in particular, and throughout the province,” said Chender. “That kind of sentiment has no place in those schools and there is no reason that a candidate who’s espousing those views should be invited on a debate stage in a high school.”
Besides the PPC, Chender is also concerned about the possibility of National Citizens Alliance candidates being included in school debates. Both parties have been widely accused of spreading Islamophobic and anti-immigration propaganda.
But Churchill defended the policy, saying it’s fair for all candidates to be represented in an all-candidates debate, such as in the case of televised national debates.
“We have a strict code of conduct policy around any language that’s used for racist xenophobic and homophobic discrimination and those policies are enforced in schools for staff, students and visitors.”
But Chender zeroed in on the difficulty of enforcing such a policy once those candidates are in schools.
“I myself have a hard time of leaving the burden of the enforcement of those policies on individual teachers and administrators once people are in schools or on a podium,” said Chender.