In the Ontario political realm, school trustees are often considered the lowest rung of the democratic order.
Their job generally attracts little attention — yet these elected officials are responsible for overseeing the educational services of one of society’s most precious assets. Our children.
As such, we should expect and ask a lot of these people — as individuals and as public representatives. As leaders.
The case of Natalia Benoit, a Niagara Catholic District School Board trustee who represents Niagara-on-the-Lake and St. Catharines, is troubling on many levels.
As our headline last week indicated, an independent investigation found that, Benoit, who is adamantly against flying the Pride flag on Catholic school property, had “compared” the rainbow flag to the Nazi flag.
In her defence, Benoit and her supporters, have said she basically misspoke and didn’t mean to be comparing the two ensigns, but rather voicing the concern that in today’s society flying the Nazi flag would never be allowed.
After a long, in-depth investigation, the firm hired by the board to assess the situation concluded that, notwithstanding her explanation after the fact and to investigators, Benoit had indeed compared the two and had violated the board’s code of conduct.
We can all agree that the Nazi flag is symbol of hate. But likening it to the Pride flag, a symbol of acceptance, is odious.
Benoit’s inability or lack of willingness to produce the now-deleted video of her Nazi remarks is also troubling.
On top of this, when she filed her election financial details, Benoit claimed no donations and no expenses. After a complaint, the board ordered an audit.
Four days after the audit was announced, Benoit submitted about $260 in expenses – and thereafter pretty well ignored any other entreaties or questions on the subject.
In addition, in delving into the reports on both Benoit’s Nazi comment and her election expenses, this week The Lake Report found some connections to organizations and people on the far right of the political spectrum.
There’s nothing illegal or wrong with that. In Canada, you’re free to support whomever you like.
But it’s somewhat ironic that while Benoit and some supporters say they simply are pushing back against “social advocacy” on issues such as homosexuality, gender identity and “indoctrination,” actually they in turn are adopting an advocacy approach to the things they claim to believe in.
The bottom line in all of this regarding Benoit is, rather than exhibiting leadership and attempting to do what is best for all the children whose interests she is sworn to represent, she has opted to try to impose her political ideals on the rest of us.
Now, we don’t ever expect Benoit or her zealous supporters to agree with this argument. Their own beliefs are simply too well entrenched. Perhaps they would say the same of us.
So, where do we go from here?
The next election is well over two years off. If voters disagree with Benoit, and if she is running again, electors will have the chance to make their voices heard.
We hope they’ll be paying attention.