It’s not the firs time that someone’s been removed from a position of authority because of something they posted on social media, but this is perhaps the most high-profile instance to happen in Guelph. Marino Gazzola, the now ousted chair of the Wellington Catholic District School Board, has formally apologized for some kind of negative social media posts though no one can say what those were.
A formal written apology from Gazzola was posted on the Wellington Catholic District School Board website last week for something he says he posted on his personal Facebook page, a post that “members of the community found offensive.”
“On reflection I realize and acknowledge that posting these items was a serious error in judgement, of which I take full responsibility and am profoundly sorry,” Gazzola wrote. “Moving forward it will be my personal mission and goal to become more understanding and inclusive, and work towards being a positive influence amongst those with whom I interact and work.”
According to Vice-Chair Victoria Dupuis, the Board met on July 30 for a special meeting to discuss Gazzola’s social media posts, and to “disassociate themselves from the actions of the Chair.”
“The board strongly disavows the racist and discriminatory tone of the posts, which do not reflect the values or views of the Board,” Dupuis said. “By mutual agreement, the Board of Trustees has accepted Gazzola’s resignation from the role of Chair of the Wellington Catholic District School Board effective Friday, July 31, 2020. Mr. Gazzola is an elected representative, as such, the board has no jurisdiction to remove him from his position as a Trustee and member of the board.”
Gazzola has served as a trustee for the Wellington Catholic Board since 1990, and has been the chair of the board for the last 17 years. Gazzola was also formally a member of the Guelph Police Service.
The precise content of the social media posts that have resulted in Gazzalo’s removal as chair have not been shared, and looking at his various social media channels didn’t immediately reveal any posts that might have prompted this controversy. Neither Gazzola nor the school board responded to media requests for more information.
Whatever the content of the social media posts, this situation is not dissimilar to an incident in June when Wilmot Mayor Les Armstrong shared a video on Facebook called “White Lives Matter.” That matter is currently being investigated by the Integrity Commissioner of Waterloo Region despite the fact that Armstrong answered calls to apologize for sharing the video at a June session of Waterloo Region council.
“We will continue to directly address challenges that go against our efforts to build a safe, equitable, and inclusive environment for our staff, students and community,” said Dupuis about the path forward. “We are deeply sorry for the hurt such incidents cause and thank everyone who has reached out to share their concerns and feedback.”
Issues of equality and eliminating systemic racism are big issues that Guelph and area school boards are being forced to tackle now. In June, the Upper Grand District School Board created a task force to study police presence in schools, and renewed its commitment to creating an inclusive atmosphere in all their schools.