Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford says Stephen Lecce has his “full support” after he apologized in the wake of a report about a “slave auction” event that happened when Lecce was part of a fraternity at Western University in the 2000s.
The report, published in PressProgress, detailed how Stephen Lecce was part an auction event to raise money for charity in his second year of university at Sigma Chi fraternity in 2006.
Lecce, who has served as education minister in the Ford government, later apologized, calling the event “inappropriate” and saying it “in no way reflects” who he is as a person.
“I will continue to passionately advance the interests of all Ontarians — irrespective of faith, heritage, orientation or race,” he said.
At a press conference Thursday morning, Ford was asked whether he would answer calls that have since been made for Lecce’s resignation.
“Stephen — he’s acknowledged that it was inappropriate and he’s apologized for attending this event as a teenager,” Ford said.
“You know, Minister Lecce has been a strong advocate of combatting racism in schools and he has my full support.”
Ford was also asked if he has had a chance to speak to Lecce in recent days or if he has plans to speak to him.
“I don’t discuss private conversations, but he’s sorry,” Ford said.
“This is something he did when he was 19 years old and in university. He apologized for this. He said it was inappropriate. I believe it’s inappropriate.
“But let me tell you something about Stephen Lecce: he’s been one of the strongest advocates about combatting racism in schools and he has my support. He’s done a really, really good job as the minister of education. But he’s passionate about combatting racism, fighting for marginalized communities and he’s done a lot to help the communities.”
Three NDP candidates, who were members of the party’s Black caucus during the previous government, said in a joint statement that slavery is not a joke and called on Ford to remove Lecce as a candidate.
Stephen Lecce apologizes for ‘slave auction’ event at Western University fraternity
“Under no circumstances should the people of this province, or even more alarmingly our children, be represented by him at this time,” the statement said in part.
“We are calling on him to withdraw as a candidate for office. Failing that, Doug Ford and the PC party must remove him. We are also calling on Doug Ford, as the Leader of the PC party, to clearly and unequivocally condemn Mr. Lecce’s actions.
Slavery is not a joke. Engaging in racist, dehumanizing actions cannot be allowed to be another case of ‘boys will be boys.’”
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario has said Lecce’s actions raise serious concerns about his understanding of anti-Black racism and his ability to serve students, families and staff who are Black.
— With files from Gabby Rodrigues and The Canadian Press
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