By AMARACHI AMADIKE, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
About a week after the City of Toronto voided two local school board elections, the date for the upcoming byelections to fill the vacant trustee seats has been announced.
As of Oct. 25, eligible residents for the French language public school trustee in Conseil Scolaire Viamonde (Ward 3 – Centre) in central Toronto and the French language Catholic school trustee in Conseil Scolaire Catholique MonAvenir (Ward 4 – Toronto Est) can register as candidates for the mandated byelections which will happen on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023.
During the lead-up to the Toronto municipal election on Oct. 24, it was discovered that one of the Ward 3 candidates in the French public board, Joseph Franca, was ineligible to hold the seat as he failed to meet all the necessary criteria. Since there was now a lack of candidates, with only one remaining, the election was ruled void by the City of Toronto.
Ward 4 in the French Catholic board shared a similar fate. One candidate was ineligible, while another candidate opted to withdraw from the race so that election was also declared void.
Some parents of the French public school board, including Shamim Ahad, expressed relief that the election was postponed and a byelection date has been set.
She told Beach Metro Community News that she was disappointed that there was a lack of information about the candidates leading up to October’s election day. This led parents to personally seek out details about the individuals who were running for the position.
“Out of a desire to understand who was running to represent our interests at the school board level, I went to city hall to get candidate contact information,” said Ahad.
She also compiled a list of questions from the community to ask them. Unfortunately, many parents were far from pleased with their findings.
“This mobilization also led to the best possible outcome,” said Ahad. “That is the option to have a “do-over” with a fully-invested community.”
Ahad described the situation as “a wake-up call for everyone” and hopes that there will now be more interest in the school board trustee elections moving forward.
“The Viamonde community is re-energized,” she said. “Everyone sees this as a second chance to participate fully in the electoral process, and no one wants a repeat of what happened.”
She believes that the newly-found sense of urgency will influence the January byelections in a positive way, possibly garnering a group of eligible candidates who represent a good cross-section of the community.
Voters can be expected to now be more attentive to the candidates in order to assure that their interests at the school board level are properly represented, she said.
“My expectations of candidates is that they present themselves and their platform transparently,” said Ahad.
“A good candidate will demonstrate knowledge of major issues that affect French language education, an understanding of the school board trustee role, a desire to stay connected to their electorate and the ability to fully function in that role, notably by being fluent in French.”
There is not a list of candidates running in January available yet. However, Amina Bibi Bhayat told Beach Metro Community News that she plans on pursuing the position again. Bhaiyat was Ward 3’s only remaining candidate after Franca was disqualified last week.
To become a candidate in the byelections, residents must file a nomination paper with original signature, provide proof of qualifying address within the school board’s area of jurisdiction, and acknowledge that they have French-language education rights. The French-language education rights requires candidates to either have French as a first language, have attended a French language school in Canada, or have children who attended or are attending a French language school in Canada.
Candidates can file their nomination until 2 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 9 while third party advertisers can register until 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 20. All nominations are to be filed in person at the Toronto Elections City Hall office (100 Queen St. W). Candidates are required to pay a $100 nomination filing fee.
For further information regarding candidate eligibility, as well as key dates, please visit the Toronto elections webpage at https://www.toronto.ca/city-government/elections/by-election/by-election-candidates/
Amarachi Amadike is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro Community News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.